I hate short corners. I hate how teams constantly use them because they think they’ll be a “surprise.” I hate it when the opposing team isn’t taken by surprise and steals the ball and gets a chance of their own. By my count today, Spain used 5 short corners, 4 of which failed miserably (the one that worked, though, was brilliant). Now, some people – I’m looking at you, Luis Aragones – might think that a 20% success rate is good. I don’t. The best cornerman I saw this tournament was Holland’s Rafael van der Vaart (I may have missed someone; feel free to voice your opinion). He was constantly on target. What Spain needed was a couple of his corners to provide variety. I’m at a loss to explain how Spain’s passing was so good but their corners so bad.
But no matter. Spain won the game 1-0 on Fernando Torres’ goal at 33 minutes. That goal, my friends, was a beautiful piece of soccer. The passing was crisp and the touches were light. Torres finished the play off through a combination of brute force (getting past the defender) and speed (beating the defender and the keeper to the ball). It came on the heels of about 20 minutes of Spanish domination. I wrote down in my notes, at 22 minutes, that Spain needed to capitalize on their chances because they’d had a grand total of two (2) to that point. Germany was playing great, with good passes and even better movement into space. Germany’s counter-attacking strategery worked for about 22 minutes. Then Spain found a way.
And that’s the true beauty of this tournament: Spain found a way. After 44 years of frustration and ridicule, Spain found a way. True, I dislike Aragones but I love to watch Fabregas and Xavi play. Iniesta is continuing to improve (even though he looks like Jason Patric at this point) and Iker Casillas sealed his place in history. He and Buffon are, indisputably, the top 2 keepers in the world right now in some order; they’re probably closer to 1 and 1a at this point. But the story is Spain. Sergio Ramos talked about unity all week and it showed today. Spain played as one, with each player knowing his role, accepting it, and flourishing. So after decades of frustration, despite having one of the top 3 domestic leagues in the world, Spain is European Champions.
And I get the feeling they’re not yet. The team is young and hungry. They’ve tasted victory and they want more. Whoever’s in their group at World Cup 2010 had better bring its A-game. Because we know Spain will. And we now know they can back up their aspirations on the pitch.