Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sketchy-ness of Spain


And before you all snicker and point out how utterly wrong I was, what a twatty bandwagon-hopper, a naive fawn-eyed romantic, a spur of the moment sucker without objectivity or common sense, I would like to say for the record, I stand by my remarks. As a countertenor, I know what it's like to receive praise and admiration from colleagues and onlookers only to step out and crack like a knee-knocking twelve year old on the wrong side of puberty. Arshavin will be back, perhaps to haunt the bench of a La Liga mid-tabler for a while, but he'll be back.

So, help me Spain, you're my only hope. You should know I still don't like you. Yeah sure, demolish Russia twice like it ain't no thang, murder Sweden cruelly at the end and make Greece look like a parody of their defensive selves four years ago, but when you meet big bad Italy, well then, pass it around and pray for pens. That said, I would take a self-satisfied David Villa over a glib, grinning Schweinsteiger any day of the week.

I can't help but think the final will be a repeat of the Italian job. There is something...green about these Spanish players, like they're not sure if they're a national team yet. Watch Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, hell, even the Faroe Islands...you know even after a hopeless defeat against an inferior nation (Guam?), these are still real live national teams.

Even when Spain plays well as they did today, they don't convince. It's as if General Franco's ghost will pop around the corner just as Puyol cracks open "For Whom the Bell Tolls," and everyone will begin pummeling each other while Aragones murmurs racial epithets to himself. Ramos looks uncomfortable passing to Fabregas, who looks uncomfortable playing next to Villa, who looks like he's on his own football-shaped planet altogether. They don't seem to believe they're worthy, either as a team or a nation. And Germany will smell this fear, and destroy them.

This tournament has been a relay race of attacking football. Holland to Russia, Russia to Spain. Ideally, the romantic outcome on the 29th would be a Spanish masterclass of attacking football and the complete overturning of a systematic and ruthless German squad.

But what if the baton passes from Spain to Germany? If the Germans have to win, perhaps they could do it in a style that will fulfill the promise made way back on June 9 2006, when 4 German goals were enough to douse Costa Rica's 2 and the whole of Germany seemed to be turning over a new leaf until normal service resumed and the old German gears started grinding again, only to be superseded in cynicism by Italy.

It's not too late for a miracle. Goodness knows we've seen enough of those already.

8 comments:

Zach Dundas said...

I am likewise unconvinced by Spain, but the problem with that opinion is, it flies in the face of all available evidence. I'd say the Italy result actually stands in their favor, since who wins a tournament without going out and grinding out a nothing win against one of the cynical Old Powers? Other than that, Spain hasn't been touche. (Then again, if Toni's finishing hadn't been so bad...but, no—that way lies madness.) Meanwhile I am even less convinced by Ze Germans. We shall see.

Richard Whittall said...

I think this is a real fifty fifty call, and just because it's wild-eyed and romantic to do so, I think it could provide a real narrative twist at the end of the tournament:

WHO will come out on top? A young but scared group of talented, fleet-footed players carrying the banner of a new attacking age?

OR

The OLD GUARD of Teutonic warriors who play not to entertain but to destroy?

Find out which footballing ideology will come out on top this Sunday, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!!!

Zach Dundas said...

Well, but, couldn't it be argued that we have it wrong and are relying too much on the traditional images of these teams rather than current form. This German side has conceded a bag of goals already and been beaten by Croatia. Spain hasn't conceded in hundreds of minutes. So why am I so unconvinced? Is it Puyol's hair?

Richard Whittall said...

It's because of the nature of these finals. I think I posted on your blog about the two Germanies, and it's true on balance the evidence points to a rousing German defeat at the hands of a rampant Spain.

But then you have to consider what Gemrnay pulled out of the bag against Portugal (on set-pieces mind), in addition to Spain's ability to be intimidated by heavy-weight footballing nations ie Italy. It's not as clear-cut as it seems...

fredorrarci said...

I can't help but feel that Richard is being a tad harsh on Spain's performance against Italy (unless my irony detector is on the blink) - it's difficult when your opponents are in full-on anti-football mode and just won't come out to play. And perhaps I'm just soft, but I think we should take into consideration the significance of it being a quarter-final, given their usual reaction at that stage of a competition, and of the fact that it was Italy they were playing - that stat about not having beaten them in several millennia can't have helped but play on their minds.

The observation that "they don't seem to believe they're worthy, either as a team or a nation" is astute, I feel. This going to be fascinating to me on Sunday. I have a feeling that getting over the Italian Problem and doing unto Russia what we thought Russia might have done unto them will imbue them with the confidence to overcome the fragility that has dogged them in the past. Then again, that's what we thought about Russia.

The point has been made elsewhere, I'm sure, but it's striking that in the group stages so many of Spain's goals came on the break, but they looked more "Spanish" in style in the semi - not co-incidentally, especially after Fabregas' entrance. Maybe I'm reading something into this game through my red-and-white-tinted cannon-shaped glasses that isn't really there, but this has got me particularly excited about Spain, unless Aragon├ęs really is as contrary as he seems and starts Guiza instead. Of course, as you say, the nature of finals tends to bugger up this kind of expectation, and this tournament has done similar with predictions game-to-game.

In other words, I don't have a frickin' clue what's going to happen. I could have saved myself some time and just written that instead, I suppose...

Brian said...

The media's been disorienting for the last couple of days. Spain's being portrayed as, on the one hand, a big favorite, and on the other hand, a basket case that can't help but recoil on itself in a Woody Allen fury of self-loathing. Germany, by contrast, seems to have dwindled into this tiny, obdurate speck made up of nationalist stereotypes and the world's massive inability to take an interest in Christoph Metzelder. It's hard for a person to get his bearings.

Brian said...

Great subject line, by the way.

Richard Whittall said...

Thanks Brian, it took a while.

And thanks for these great comments all; I think as Fred summed up, tomorrow's outcome is anyone's guess, not only as to the winner but the style of football that will be on offer.

I can't help but think that it will disappoint under the weight of what's preceded it in this tournament, but in my heart of hearts, I hope the final will provide a sort of 'last word' on attacking v. conservative play...