Sunday, 1 July 2012

Spain Break Records, Polarise Logic of the Game

Spun in a dark and humid Kiev, the freshest chapter in the storied Spanish reign over football. When it was needed the most, this unbelievable assemblage of talent located at last the dazzling brand of football with which they have become analogous. In the process of demolishing any Italian hope, Spain achieved what no team in the history of the sport had ever, winning at a canter three consecutive major International tournaments. It would appear, however, that whilst strolling to a successful defence of European glory, Spain initiated a polarising effect on how the game is analysed and viewed from here on.

In a tournament awash with teams set in a defensive mould, Spain prevailed with a brand of football anathema to such pessimism, igniting debate. Relentless in their control and utilisation of the ball, Spain's achievement seemingly balances out the success of Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League by brute defensive means; polarising the logic of the game.

Throughout this championship, Spain received unfounded criticism. Questioned at home for a "no striker" policy, lambasted by some for lack of ambition, condemned even as boring by some, Spain were doubted. However, the perceived boredom derives from the sheer repetitive nature of their mesmeric brilliance, the apparent lack of ambition born out witnessing the innate ease with which each player commands and cares for the football. Spain are not boring, they are simply unique in the annals of footballing history.

On the night when four sublime and unanswered goals were intertwined with swathes of insatiable, irresistible passing football, records aplenty were smashed by the men in red. Becoming not only the first International team ever to win three straight championships, but the only International team ever to successfully defend the Henri Delaunay Trophy, Spain broke records. Becoming the first team ever to score four goals in a European Championship Final, Spain broke records. Harbouring, in Fernando Torres, the only man ever to score in more than one such final, Spain broke records. All the while, Spain too broke opinion; dividing belief and philosophy on how to succeed.

Such a polarisation of logic is a direct manifestation of the Chelsea model. A continent watched and studies as Roberto Di Matteo plotted through spring and early summer a magnificently complex and unusual route to glory. Arriving in Poland & Ukraine, many teams, spotting in place of Barcelona and Bayern Munich the likes of Spain and Germany, implemented similar ideals to those which spawned Chelsea success. Defensive austerity was thus in vogue. This is why, upon this fine evening of Spanish history-making and trophy-hoisting, friction lies in opinion. By winning, and by being so startlingly good, Spain have caused a problem for all the managers and coaches who presumed they held the answer.

So now the tactical nexus of football is splintered. Like hostile and rugged tectonic plates, two opposing philosophies are in conflict. On one side, the rustic and gallant policy of all-out defence. On the other, the similarly prevailing doctrine of beautiful, flowing passing combinations and exuberant possession spells. Both have, in recent times, led inexorably to tremendous success and euphoria, but remain by very nature incompatible. A new epoch in the evolution of football strategy is upon us, mesmeric and enthralling as it so plaintively is.

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