Since Barcelona’s 7-0 aggregate defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals last month, football in Spain has been written off by many as yesterday’s news, with Germany now the fashionable country to admire in terms of footballing philosophy.
Spain’s outstanding display against Uruguay on Sunday night, in their Confederations Cup opener in Brazil, made the world sit up and realise that they are still the best international team on the planet, however.
Vicente del Bosque’s side enjoyed over 70 per cent possession on the night, and the scoreline was actually very generous on the South American team.
Led by the sensational Andres Iniesta, who was an absolute joy to watch, the reigning World and European Champions showed the doubters that they have lost none of their attacking zest, producing football that was as good as anything Barcelona have conjured up over the last five years at times.
Goals from Pedro and Roberto Soldado sealed the victory, but it was the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets who really stole the show. Their ability to keep the ball in tight areas, with an elegance in the way they do it, was pure artistry to watch.
Perhaps these great players have been stung by the criticism aimed in their direction in recent months. The performance certainly looked like that was the case.
One of the reasons Barcelona have been found out slightly this season is because their defence has looked suspect, with Dani Alves often too far forward with dangerous opposition wide players exploiting the spaces in behind the Blaugrana‘s high line.
Spain are far more solid and consistent, however. With Iker Casillas in goal, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos at the heart of the defence and Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa at full-back, they are a very tight unit who rarely look in trouble.
Admittedly they invariably have less to do than other sides because Spain dominate so many games in terms of possession, but when they are called upon they rarely make an error.
While everybody talks about their tiki-taka style and relentless pressing game, it is easy to forget that Spain have not conceded a goal in the knockout stages of a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. That’s 10 clean sheets in a row in important, high-pressure games.
There can be no doubt that Barcelona’s unforgettable period of dominance is over, with Bayern Munich taking over at the top of the domestic game – especially with Pep Guardiola taking over this summer – but at international level Spain are still unstoppable.
They are arguably the greatest international side of all time, and there appears to be no sign of them slowing up just yet.
While the Confederations Cup may not be the most meaningful, competitive, international tournament in the world, Spain’s opening display suggests that they will remain the team to beat at next summer’s World Cup.
Those Spain doubters may just have to eat some humble pie for the foreseeable future.