June 24, 2012
Spain still the soccer 'benchmark'
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
KIEV, UKRAINE - With all this hype about “Ronaldo this” and “Germany that,” it’s understandable if Andres Iniesta and his La Furia Roja teammates might wonder why they are not feeling the love at Euro 2012.
As the tournament winds down, the chatter throughout Poland and Ukraine seems to be on the outstanding play of the Portuguese star and the impressive style being shown by Der Mannschaft.
The Ukrainian talk shows (at least according to the translators/cab drivers we’ve elicited) are saturated with conversations concerning Ronaldo and the Germans, with the chatter going something like this:
“How about that magnificent Ronaldo with three goals in the past two games for Portugal? He is unstoppable right now.”
“The Germans are on a roll right now. They are so deep. They must be considered the favourites to go all the way.”
Thanks to Valerij the cabbie for interpreting. Don’t worry, he was graciously compensated for his translation by the extremely inflated fare he charged.
As for what the soccer-loving media and public are talking about here, here’s a couple of questions for them, not to mention the international media.
What about Spain?
Why aren’t the defending Euro and World Cup titleholders being talked up?
Where’s the respect they so richly deserve?
At last check, Spain had plowed its way into the final four of Euro 2012, having yet to lose. The only semi-blemish on Spain's resume was a 1-1 draw with Italy in the group stage, a result that should be construed more as a compliment on how well the Italians played as opposed to Spanish mediocrity.
With the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 titles tucked neatly under their sombreros, capturing the Euro 2012 crown would make Spain the first country ever to capture three consecutive major international tournament championships, a feat for the ages indeed.
Still, somehow, as perplexing and head-scratching as it may seem, the Spanish have taken a back seat in the public eye to Ronaldo’s efforts to escape Lionel Messi’s shadow and the 15 consecutive victories posted by the Germans in international competition, a new global record.
In fact, heading into their semifinal showdown against Ronaldo’s Portugal at Donetsk’s Donbass Stadium on Wednesday, the Spanish have been at times jeered instead of cheered back home in their native land for not winning with the same type of flair and pizzazz their rabid fans have become accustomed to.
For his part, classy Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta refuses to knock those who knock his team. The important thing, he insists, is for La Furia Roja teammates to keep their collective eyes on the big prize.
“All thoughts or criticisms that are constructive, and aren’t hurtful, have to be respected, and they always serve to improve,” Iniesta said, doing his bit to be politically correct. “We just need a bit of patience, a bit of balance and coherence, because we all want to win, of course. We all want to do well and the coach puts out the team he thinks is the best for each match. You certainly have games where things go well and others where they don’t.
“We shouldn’t think such criticism doesn’t help when they say we played badly – the criticism is there for a reason. But when a team has played very well for a long period, and won the Euro and the World Cup, expectations are very high, and that is just something that goes along with the success you have.
“That’s just inevitable.”
The Spanish aren’t just going to step aside and let another side take their shot at a Euro 2012 crown. German captain Philipp Lahm will be the first to tell you that.
“It is impressive how well they work against the ball and keep the opposition away from their goal,” Lahm said. “They are still the benchmark.”
At least the Germans know it.
It’s about time the rest of the soccer world does as well.