Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's A Long Way From Switzerland To Germany

Not many people who watched Spain's first game in this World Cup, a defeat against Switzerland, would have been too insistent in pressing the pre-tournament notion that Spain were one of the favourites to win the trophy. Yet here we are a short time after with Spain facing Holland in the final.

To get there Spain had to finally find their game, in order to neutralise the threat of a German team that had scored 8 goals in its previous two games - although admittedly 4 of those goals were against England so perhaps shouldn't count? It all came right on the night, as the Germans were left chasing Spanish players and rarely came close to scoring. Spain helped themselves by not trying Maradona's revolutionary tactic of having a single midfielder.

Spain may have found their rhythm against Germany, but it's worth noting that the goal that won the game came from a very direct piece of play. Indeed the Spanish team is racking up a series of 1-0 victories as the domination of games isn't translated into goals. A similar thing occasionally happens to Barcelona, they can have a huge share of the posession but it's as if the precision machine isn't perfectly tuned, and the final ball never quite works out. That's the impression I had the other night, they still weren't quite at their best despite being clearly better than the Germans. Possession of the ball isn't everything, I read somewhere that Argentina enjoyed close to 60% of it as they were torn apart by Germany.

Of course having got rid of the Germans there are many now in Spain who regard the Dutch as a formality on the way to the trophy. We'll see how that turns out, this is far from being the greatest Dutch squad but they have players who can cause damage and have been more efficient than Spain when it comes to taking scoring chances. Both Sneijder and Robben, who have had excellent seasons, would surely enjoy the chance to remind Real Madrid supporters of what they can do after their departure from the new era Galacticos.

These wild swings between overconfidence and deep pessisimism are quite common in Spain concerning football. Before the quarter finals I could hardly find any Spanish person who thought they would get this far. Too many previous disappointments have left many Spaniards expecting the worst from their national team, despite the European Championship victory 2 years ago. All of that has changed now and there is a tremendous euphoria about the prospect of the final. I have friends who disdain football sending mails about where to watch the next game. In Madrid, the big screen moves to Cibeles for the final, I'm here in Cartagena for the match and will see whether they have a local equivalent. Win or lose, there's going to be quite an atmosphere tomorrow night.


Pueblo girl said...

So come on then, what's your take on last night's match?

Graeme said...

As a game of football it was a tremendous disappointment, but then the final of the World Cup often is as nerves and fear of losing take over. I was so glad it didn't go to penalties. Dutch football has been so admirable for the last 30-35 years that it was really quite sad to see them play that way.