Spain produces a fabulous whine

TERRY JONES, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Spain isn't the most famous place in the world for wine. But when it comes to soccer, they do produce an excellent whine.

Maybe it's all the practice they've had in their horrid history of gagging on games like the one they lost to the Czech Republic yesterday in the quarter-final of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in a shootout after 120 minutes of regulation and extra time soccer.

'SAD DAY'

If you listen to coach Gines Melendez, it was a crime against soccer, an incredible miscarriage of justice against Spain.

"Today is a very sad day for football," said Melendez.

"Today is not the better teams who wins.

"Our players don't deserve to lose this match. There were two different teams on the pitch, the first one which wants to play and the second one which didn't want to play. They only wanted to play defence."

He went on and on and on.

"It was not possible. They don't play the match to win it. It was just defence.

"It was very difficult to play 120 minutes when we want to play football all the time and they don't want to play football. They just wanted to stop us.

"We deserved to win this match. But it was defend, defend, defend. We played attack, attack, attack."

In addition to blaming the Czechs, Melendez blamed Commonwealth Stadium's field.

"The pitch was not in the best condition. We asked them to put on a little bit of water. It was not a good field to play attack."

Czech coach Miroslav Soukup should have responded to that with a one word answer: "Duh!"

What did he expect him to do? Spain had scored 12 goals in their first four games in the tournament.

Soukup, instead, took the media for a long walk around the topic.

"When we start in this World Cup, we started versus Argentina. Our next game was against the champions of Asia.

"This game was against the European champions. I think we can't have any harder opponents than we've had so far.

"We knew we couldn't play an open game with Spain so I adjusted our play accordingly. We didn't want Spain to go into fast-break football. We tried to win the game from one or two breaks or free kick or something.

"The game went exactly the same as we thought it would develop. Even if we had quite few good scoring chance, we were several times lucky. We could lose, but we had lucky goalposts. At the end we were more lucky than Spain. In overtime we were lucky with crossbar. The penalty shot shootout always involves lots of luck.

"People can like it or not, that's the way it is. It's not just the Czech team. Anybody could do it."

"On other hand, Spain didn't have just 90 minutes, they had 120. If they didn't win it, they can't blame the other team.

"An old coach once said about soccer that the gods of soccer don't always make it that the best team wins."

WIN AND LOSE

In the end, Edmonton finally won.

To this point there wasn't much to watch at this stop of the tournament, but yesterday a crowd of 26,804 finally got a game to remember.

OK. Not so much for the first 90 minutes when the only real highlight was Spain's Adrian Lopez putting an unbelievable chance off the post in the 79th minute. But in extra time there was no lack of drama and that's built in with a penalty kick shootout.

The trouble is, in the end, you can make a case Edmonton lost, too.

The city has ended up with a very vanilla semifinal Wednesday.

Organizers, hoping to double Toronto's 19,500 sellout figure for the semifinals would have preferred a Spain vs. the US for the final game of the tournament here. Instead, with the Americans losing to Austria and Spain losing this one, they've ended up with Austria vs. Czech Republic.

Who would have ever projected that?


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