Spain, the Triple, Jordi Alba and Anti-Anti Football
In a tournament that has been defined by statistics, figures and historical results, the number 4-0 rang true on Sunday as Spain flamenco-ed their way to victory and into history.
In football the right team doesn’t always win. This season we witnessed Chelsea Bus Park their way to Champions League glory, but as the Henri Delaunay trophy was lifted in to the Kiev sky, there was no doubting that Spain deserved it.
Italy started the tournament a dark horse. The pessimists predicted a first round exit, the optimistic a heroic attempt but the Azzurri would be undone by a Spain-Croatia collusion. In reality they delivered something quite different.
They played football and received praise for their new identity. The way in which Italy, bad finishing aside brushed a physical England and explosive Germany aside rekindled memories of 2006 and for those older than me 1982.
La Furia Roja, may have destroyed Italy in the final, but it was clear from the outset that they were playing an opponent already on the ropes. The finger may be pointed at Italy manager Cesare Prandelli for not playing fresher options, but in a tournament where the Azzurri have exceeded expectations, it was fitting to give these players their chance, if not slightly misguided.
When the dust settles there will be a post mortem and these questions will need to be answered, but for now Italy can quite happily sit second only to Spain in Europe.
For the Spanish Euro 2012 was ground breaking in more ways than one. Not only did they become the first team in the history of football to claim three back to back trophies, but for the first time ever, their style and ethos was brought into question.
They were deemed boring, predictable and the new catch phrase of Anti-Football was even thrown their way, but in reality they were just too gifted for their opponents.
The criticism was borne more out of frustration than actual tactical analysis. The way in which Spain can keep teams at arms length whilst protecting a lead, drove millions to miss the point that, to have absolute control, is to have absolute power. For their opponents it was soul destroying, for their next round opponents an ominous dark cloud on the horizon. Spain as a team are so good, that very rarely do they need to step out of walking pace.
Spain’s movement, touch and passing has been rightfully praised over 4 years, but it was the performance of their left back Jordi Alba that should have Premier League fans, managers and TV Bosses having a reality check this morning.
Jordi Alba, Barcelona’s new signing at £11 Million proves how overrated and over priced every single English player is. Glen Johnson cost Liverpool £18 Million, Leighton Baines is being touted at £17 million, Joleon Lescott £22 million and Phil Jones £18 million.
Value needs to start being attributed to talent, not to nationality. It is a discussion for another time, but whilst English players continue to be overpriced, the national team will continue to be over-hyped.
The price that Barcelona paid for Alba should also serve as a timely reminder for Tottenham, Daniel Levy and Gareth Bale. Barcelona now have their left back position tied down for the foreseeable future, if Levy was hoping for a big deal next summer, he is set to be disappointed. At £30 plus million for Bale, it is clear that Barca has made the right move financially and football wise.
Playing in his first major tournament Alba showed composure and wisdom way beyond his years. Throughout the tournament the former Valencia man has been sure footed in defence, whilst giving the Spanish an incredible attacking outlet. Alba deserved to score in the final, and it was fitting that the man with killer pace, landed the knock out blow to the spirited Azzurri. It was the big match winning performance that Spurs fans are still waiting to see from their left sided player.
One or two positions apart this Spanish team has changed very little since they claimed the 2008 title. This group of footballers have developed into an incomparable unit blessed with as much belief as technique. The histrionics that accompany them when playing for their club side disappear when they wear the red. Club and traditional conflicts are set aside as Spain handle every type of counter tactic from parking the bus, to sheer Nigel De Jong thuggery. It is a measure that there is very little praise left to throw at them that hasn’t already arrived on a silver platter.
Iker Casillas proved last night that just perhaps he is equal to Gigi Buffon’s claim of being the best goalkeeper ever. Supporting him, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, may lack the defensive nous of great centre backs past, but they more than make up for it in determination, physicality and sheer speed across the ground. Mario Balotelli who had run the Germans into the ground four days previous was well and truly nullified.
The Spanish defence is of course aided by a 5-6 man midfield. It was Vicente Del Bosque’s decision to play this formation that caused such contention at this tournament, but if you have 6 world class midfielders, and 3 decent strikers, which would you play?
This is a Spain first XI that has looked bullet proof for nearly half a decade; whether they be able to continue this into Brazil 2014 remains to be seen. Those people other than of Spanish descent will be praying that the years in between are unkind to La Furia Roja.
Because should this Spanish team retain its spark and passion, the quadruple, once as unheard of as space travel, will become a very real.
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