July 1, 2012
Spanish win good for the game
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
The Euro 2012 final might not have been the most dramatic game in history but it was good for soccer.
Spain's 4-0 defeat of Italy Sunday in Kiev provided a lesson on how soccer should be played.
Without question, if more teams played like Spain, the sport would grow even more throughout the world.
Even an Italian win would have sent the right message to the world. Italy, like Spain, has begun to play the Beautiful Game with a little more panache and style.
Spain has advanced the game to another level in the past six years. Is Spain the best team ever? The great Brazilian teams of the 1970s would have a lot to say about that but Spain has to take a backseat to no one.
Spain only further fattened the legacy it is creating in the world of soccer with its master work against Italy.
It was a harsh final scoreline for the Italians, who will be embarrassed. They deserved better. But the Spanish saved their best for last and unloaded it all on Italy.
But as the pain and exhaustion fade away, the Italians will recognize that this tournament was good for them. While they didn't win the European championship, they played well and restored some respect with their play. In the end, this tournament was a victory for them and the direction the Italian game is heading.
All tournament, Spain played with elegance and confidence, moving the ball about the field like a pinball bouncing from player to player. In the final, Spain added a final deadly thrust to that pattern, a fencer moving from merely parrying to slicing open an opponent.
Spain's directness destroyed the Italians. Instead of building up with 10, 15 or 20 passes, Spain attacked far more quickly instead of using its almost hypnotic style of the earlier games. It caught the Italians flat-footed.
That is the majestic quality to the way Spain plays the game, a panorama of touches, feints and runs. Spain threads its way across the field, touching almost every blade of grass.
That style will be emulated by other national teams.
It is the right way to play the game, with the focus on passing and movement. It is a checkerboard-like strategy of moving men and pieces quickly to where the opening happens to be.
Spain may have taken that kind of play to the extreme but when it counted most in the final of Euro 2012, Spain finished Italy by adding one more dimension to its game.
The Spanish are able to play this way because they have the requisite pieces to do so. It is a grouping of players who connect so fluidly with each other that there seems to be more of them on the pitch than the opposition is fielding.
Other nations won't have the advantage of having so many players of the quality that Spain has developed. But that is the other reason why Spain has changed the face of the game -- its success will change how other countries develop their young players.
Spain has proven that too often the focus is on the technical aspect of the game. Do you play with four or five midfielders, two strikers, one striker or no strikers? In the end, it matters not.
What matters is how well you pass, receive a pass, shoot the ball and read the game. It comes down to how well you play with your teammates, regardless of position. It comes down to learning how to play and think the game.
The Spanish revolution means more players will develop great skills and more teams will play the game like Spain.
When other nations attempt to emulate the stylish Spanish, the byproduct can't help but be players who learn to play the Beautiful Game, well, beautifully.
The real winner then will be the soccer fan and the game itself.