Tag Archives: Spain

World Cup Final: Spain 1-0 Holland

Andrés Iniesta scores the World Cup-winning goal for Spain (Michael Sohn/AP)

To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. For Spain, anyway. For Holland, it was just the worst of times.

In some respects, the Dutch players brought it on themselves. In abandoning Total Football (much like Brazil abandoned its joga bonito style) in search of championships, the Dutch employed a guerrilla style that results in fouls. Take Mark van Bommel, for example. He’s a hard man in the middle, and I respect that. But if we’re being honest, he probably should have been booked at least 10-15 times more than he was (once). The same can be said of Nigel de Jong. The problem, then, is that while the Dutch played sturdy defense, they fouled too much. Which is exacerbated when trying to mark players as skilled as Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.

So how did Spain win? Patience and perseverance. Spain frustrates opponents because it controls the game in ways other teams can only dream of. It’s intimidating. Look how passive the Germans were against Spain, as compared to their other games. Look at how passive the Dutch were today, despite their tough pre-match talk. It was all posturing because they, like the other teams Spain played, became flustered by their lack of possession.

Spain’s patience was rewarded, albeit extraordinarily late. Iniesta’s goal was the result of a good build-up and a terrible cross (with a lucky bounce) by Fernando Torres. The point is that the build-up, the probing (in Martin Tyler’s words), is successful. It’s not exactly Barcelona-style beautiful football, but it’s effective, in part because of the skill on Spain’s team and in part because the team is committed to it.

That’s not to say there aren’t any problems. The Spanish back line was curiously bad today (probably because they gave Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder more room than other opponents, and justifiably so). But San Iker was there to save the day on Robben’s especially glorious chance at 62 minutes. David Villa, up front, was frustrated numerous times that he wasn’t found in time (Cesc Fàbregas should have laid the ball out for him) and he blew a couple of open-ish chances. Fernando Torres was off the entire World Cup and pulled up lame near the end of the game. But the good far outweighs the bad for the Spanish team.

A quick comment on Howard Webb’s performance. In a tournament in which the referees were, on the whole, terrible, Webb had a reasonably good game. The bookings (a record number for a final) were all justified. There could have been a couple more, especially if Nigel de Jong had been booked for kicking Xabi Alonso in the chest. In all, it was a choppy game but not because of Webb; it was choppy because of the Dutch tactics.

That should not detract from Spain’s triumph. Spain won the game fair and square. It was the most dominant team over the last 3-4 years and thoroughly deserved to win.

Congratulations to Spain.

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Spain wins the World Cup

Spain wins the World Cup, by a score of 1-0 over Holland on 11 July 2010

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Patience is a virtue, except when it’s not

By and large, playing any game patiently is a good thing. You have a chance to take in everything that’s affecting the pitch – or the board or the court or the ice – and plan your response accordingly. Tactically, it makes sense because the times to throw caution to the wind are few and far between. Which brings me to Spain.

The Spanish style, under Vicente del Bosque, is to patiently build up the play. It’s to pass around, to control the pace (and the tempo – yes, they’re two different things), and to strike when the opportunity presents itself. Or when the opposition has fallen asleep. I kid. Spain actually plays a version of Barcelona’s system, in which a premium is placed on possession. To control the game, and to impose your will, surely leads to victory. Except when it doesn’t.

In Spain’s first World Cup game, a 1-0 loss to Switzerland (!), the patience worked against it. In the end, Switzerland’s Gelson Fernandes scored the only goal that mattered and when Spain actually played with some urgency, it was too late. Spain controlled the match in every way, except the scoreboard. And when that’s happening, you have to loosen the reigns. Spain’s squad is full of thoroughbreds, players who can start on any team in the world. To keep them shackled was criminal. Of course, the loss was a bad one, in the sense that it shouldn’t have happened. The second game was more typical of Spain’s game: it totally dominated Honduras and, but for some bad luck, would have won a lot more than 2-0. Indeed, it should have been 4-0 or 5-0, but it wasn’t. In the second game, despite the dominance, Spain looked lethargic, as if it was unsure of itself. As if they were intimidated by the world’s biggest stage. Who knows? Maybe the players were, to a degree.

David Villa scores for Spain against Chile (Márcio José Sánchez/AP)

Which brings me to today’s game, a 2-1 victory over Chile which put both teams through to the knockout stage and gave Spain the top spot (thus avoiding Brazil). For the first 20 minutes, Spain looked slow and, once again, lethargic. After David Villa’s amazing goal at 24 minutes, the team relaxed and played with the breezy confidence we’ve come to know and love. But for the first 15 minutes of the second half, Spain tightened up again, as if they were surprised that Chile would attack them (as if that’s surprising: Chile’s been attacking the entire tournament). It was only after the 60th minute that the team relaxed and played well again (at least until the 85th minute, when both teams stopped playing for the win, their places in the next round assured).

So patience was one of the keys to Spain’s epic undefeated streak (broken in last year’s Confederations Cup by the United States). And patience also led to that defeat, the defeat by Switzerland, and the panic (there is no better word) for about 35 minutes today. When is patience good? It’s good when the team is composed and relaxed. Passing the ball around and retaining possession is excellent, but if the players are tense the chances of colossal mistake rise exponentially (no, I can’t prove that scientifically, but anecdotal evidence supports me). And that was the problem. Spain was tense, perhaps because of the burden of past failures. And it’s only going to get more tense now that the knockout phase is officially starting.

Spain play Portugal and the former have to be careful not to get too frustrated with the latter’s stultifying defensive tactics. Spain needs to be in control and relaxed. Good things will come from both and will help Spain avoid another shock result.

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World Cup 2010: Group H jerseys

Switzerland is the outlier here, but not for any soccer-related reason. Once again, we have a colonial smackdown as Spain takes on Honduras and Chile, two former colonies. That should be fun (though probably not as fun as Portugal v. Brazil, simply because Spain is pretty awesome and neither Honduras nor Chile are awesome).

Chile home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

I’m going to assume that Chile chose red because chiles can be red. That seems to make sense to me. Otherwise, the jersey is boring bordering on catatonic. Even the Chilean FA’s crest is boring (that’s a stylized Chilean flag). I’ve already written too many words on this shirt. Moving on…

Honduras home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

The most interesting part of this shirt is the inside collar, which appears to have a stripe pattern reminiscent of old Honduras jerseys.  That said, it looks like Joma took all the worst things from Adidas’s templates from 2 or 3 years ago and put them on this shirt. I feel bad for the Honduran team because they have to wear this abomination. Which is sad, because Honduras is not terrible.

Spain home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

Ah, Spain. Classic shirt, classic color, and look at the FA’s crest. There must be something about the Iberian peninsula that causes sweet crests. Or maybe it’s the 1000-year long history of monarchy. Something like that. I’m not gonna lie: I love Spain’s shirt, not just because I love Spain but also because Spain has enough clout to force Adidas to not do anything stupid to it. And that’s always a good thing, because Adidas needs to learn to avoid stupid stripes and piping.

Switzerland home jersey for the 2010 World Cup

I suppose it’s only natural that the Swiss shirt inspires feelings of neutrality. Though I do like the FA crest (on the left shoulder; the little running dude).

So there you have. All 32 shirts in just a few short days. Some are good, some are bad, some are beyond awful. I think, just from back of the envelope calculations, that Nike acquitted itself well this time, which solid designs. On the other hand, Adidas is consistently bad while Puma is hit-and-miss (though the shoulder graphic thing works more often than it doesn’t). That doesn’t really say much about how the shirts will look on the pitch, but I’m looking forward to some more than others.

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Confederations Cup: Now I know why Keanu says “Whoa”

Clint Dempsey celebrates his goal v. Spain on 24 June 2009

Clint Dempsey celebrates his goal v. Spain on 24 June 2009

Whoa.

Really? Spain just got beat by the US 2-0? No, you’re joking.

Holy crap! You’re not joking.

I’m not sure where to start, so let’s start with me being wrong: I picked Spain to win the Confederations Cup. I figured they’d maybe lose in the final, versus either Italy or Brazil. Then I figured Spain v. Brazil would be epic. Never did I figure that the US, even after beating Egypt, would win. So, I was wrong.

I was wrong because the US played a tactically excellent game. They counter-attacked when they could and made their chances count. Perhaps most importantly, the two center backs – Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit – were fantastic. Anyone who doesn’t think Oneywu belongs on a top club is hereby declared certifiable. Real Madrid should be signing him ASAP. Or anyone in the Premiership. Landycakes played magnificently, even though the US couldn’t find him on at least two occasions in the early second half.

Spain, on the other hand, had the build-up and the passing but not the finishing. They put constant pressure on the US, especially Albert Riera and Joan Capdevila on the left hand side, but could not finish. Fernando Torres and David Villa will not want to put this match very high on their resumes. Neither will Sergio Ramos, whose poor clearance led to the second US goal.

Where does Spain go from here? Down, most likely. I don’t think this will kill their confidence because the team enjoys playing together and gets along very well. I don’t think this will have any long-term impact on their World Cup hopes; I still think Spain can win the World Cup.

There will be those who will say that Spain is reverting to its pre-Euro 2008 form. That is, the disappointing team that had shown up for the previous several years. Spain is too good for that to happen to them.

What it will do is force Spain to take everyone seriously. I think they strolled through the tournament and then ran into a US team on a good run of form.

Make no mistake: Spain did not lose this game; the US won it. They deserve their win because they played so well. They beat the world’s best team. Now they get to play the winner of Brazil-South Africa for the Confederations Cup final.

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Confederations Cup: Spain sets new world record

Getty Images

Getty Images

Spain’s 2-0 victory over South Africa this afternoon set a new world record for consecutive wins, with 15 (also, Spain has no gone 35 matches without losing, which breaks another Brazilian record). They broke the old record of 14, held by Brazil. It was, in fact, the most noteworthy thing to happen today in a lackluster day at the Confederations Cup. I will say that Spain looked good but their first real challenge will be in the semi-finals versus either Brazil or Italy (likely Italy, though my crystal ball has been off for about a year).

In the other semi-final, Iraq looked like crap while New Zealand got their first point ever in Confederations Cup competition. Gotta have something to hang your hat on, eh?

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Confederations Cup: No alarms and no surprises

David Villa scoring his goal (Getty Images)

David Villa scoring his goal (Getty Images)

Today’s Confederations Cup action saw no surprises.

Spain 1-0 Iraq: I suppose one could be surprised by the fact that Spain only scored one measly goal. And that it took them 55 minutes to score. I suppose I could criticize David Villa for not appearing to be worth the absurd amounts of money being thrown around. But at least the goal he did score was really good.

Iraq’s tactics were clearly based on Chelsea’s tactics versus Barcelona in the Champion’s League. That is, they packed, at times, all 10 outfield players in front of the ball. The thing that sort of impressed me was that they closed the ball down quickly, unlike New Zealand, which attempted to slow the game down on Monday. It’s a credit to Iraq’s coach, legendary wanderer Bora Milutinovic, that they were able to push Spain as far as they did.

In any event, Spain is through to the semi-finals. Perhaps they’ll play someone good there. Oh, and that’s 35 straight wins, tying Brazil’s record.

South Africa 2-0 New Zealand: New Zealand are clearly the worst team in the field because South Africa is not nearly as good as they looked today. Though Bernard Parker’s goal celebrations were interesting. Anyone know where that comes from? I feel sort of bad saying this, but I’m going to anyway: Oceania’s champion should not be in the Confederations Cup. In fact, Oceania should probably be folded into the Asian Confederation because the former is not nearly competitive enough.

That said, South Africa looked good. They might qualify for the semi-finals but they’ll need New Zealand to win or draw against Iraq. I doubt it, though. So South Africa really needs to hope the Kiwis allow fewer than 2 goals.

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