July 3, 2012

los campeones de Europa!!

…and in the end, Spain always win!
To sum up the fantastic tournament which took place in Poland and Ukraine between June 8th and July 1st. For readers who don’t follow football, the author is talking about the UEFA Euro 2012.

los campeones de Europa!!
By Aditya Raste

After 24 days of some scintillating footballing action and some not-so-savory off-field moments (Samir Nasri, anyone?), La Roja completed the coveted Euro-World Cup-Euro treble drawing themselves level with Germany on the all-time titles leaderboard for the Euros by demolishing Italy 4-0 in the Final (Yes, 4-0 in the FINAL)- asserting their absolute dominance on the World Football scene- and they did it in style with their famed tiki-taka passing.
Post a grueling semifinal against Portugal which was settled by penalties, the final was a stroll in the park for the defending champions- so much so that late substitute Fernando Torres found time to score a goal and set one up within four minutes of each other. The victims of this onslaught were Italy, who had previously knocked overwhelming favorites Germany against all odds in convincing fashion. The Italians broke the German organization (or more aptly, exploited the lack of it) with two precise counters and some heroic defending at the back. Against Spain, though, they had no answer. La Roja induced death with their style of passing and Italy simply couldn’t get the ball. When they did, they were wasteful, or thwarted by the excellent Spanish defense and midfield. The match sparkled into life after David Silva opened the scoring after 13 minutes on the clock. Italy responded with immediate pressure for a few minutes but then Spain resumed control and 7 minutes before half time, dealt a cruel blow to Italian hopes. A trade mark Xavi through ball cut open the Azzuri’s backline and full-back Jordi Alba finished with the verve of a striker. Italy never recovered from the blow and to add insult to injury, Fernando Torres added a third in the 84th minute and set up his Chelsea team-mate Juan Mata (who was playing his second minute of the tournament) for a fourth 4 minutes later. Spain stormed through to the trophy-conceding just one goal in the process.
So what made Spain such an indomitable force? Why did they continue to win despite losing two of their best players and heroes of their previous successful campaigns- Carles Puyol and David Villa, when on the other hand 2008 finalists Germany were exposed by Italy and 2010 WC finalists, the Dutch crashed out at the group stage? It was because Spain had the right mix of organization and inspiration. The Dutch, on one hand relied too much on the individual talents of the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie et al while on the other end of the spectrum, Die Mannschaft focused solely on organization, sacrificing inspiration on individual moments that can about-ship many a game. But La Roja found the right mix of both. Their play had both creativity and order, industry and brilliance, style and steel-the strongest defense and the most clinical attack of the tournament.
Even though I have been personally supporting Germany for the past 10 years (and will continue to do so, mind you), I must say I was captivated by Spain and have utmost respect for them. Many said they were boring, but they turned on the style when it mattered the most- at the grand stage- and that’s what separates the Champions from the pretenders. Whether this Spain team is on par with or better than the legendary West Germany of Beckenbauer, Netzer, Vogts and Gerd Muller will always be up for debate, but one thing is certain- they will be remembered for as long as there is Football. Love them or hate them, Spain walk out worthy Champions…viva la Espana!