DURBAN – While their whiny manager was at a press conference complaining to the media about how Switzerland didn’t really deserve to pull off the biggest upset of South Africa 2010, dejected Spanish players were probably tucked away in the sanctity of their dressing room feeling a little tickle in their throats.
Some would call it the beginnings of the Spanish flu.
This is how it seems to start every four years. A scratchy larynx. Then shortness of breath. Then hacking spells. Wheezing. A lack of oxygen ... someone please send oxygen ...
Sounds a lot like, well, ch-k--g.”
Sorry. We can’t give you the whole word. The Spanish might be offended by it. It’s something they have been quite sensitive to leading up to this edition – perhaps every edition – of the World Cup.
On second thought, they lost 1-0 Wednesday.
To Switzerland, a team they had never lost to before in 18 previous meetings.
So you can bet the media from Barcelona to Madrid – not to mention yours truly – will be using the “C” word.
As in “Choked.”
It’s a label Vicente Del Bosque and his players cringe at whenever they hear it. This is a different team, insist the Euro 2008 champions, one oozing with promise and promises.
There’s no doubt they can talk the talk.
Here’s the problem.
On Wednesday, they could not walk the walk.
This is a matter of credibility. Del Bosque wants respect for his side. Yet it’s hard to give the amount they deserve when they suffer the biggest upset of South Africa 2010 to date.
It’s also difficult to feel any sympathy when he starts spewing about how they carried the play, how they were hard done by, how they should have won.
He’s right on one count. They did control the ball for much of the match. At last check, that doesn’t win you games. Goals do.
The other stuff? Sour grapes.
“I feel it’s an excessive prize for them considering the football they displayed,” Del Bosque said of the Swiss.
Excessive? How? They scored, you didn’t.
When the final whistle was tooted, the Swiss players ran over to a throng of their fans, supporters who were celebrating one of the biggest wins in the history of Switzerland soccer.
In the days leading up to the game, Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told anyone who would listen that his side was capable of winning. He knew the Spanish would be hearing the “C” word from the media.
“All the pressure,” he said, “is on them.”
Many laughed at him for those comments.
No one is doing that any more.
“I am fully aware that we have made history,” Hitzfeld said afterward. “This will go down in the record books.
“The three points is a gift that we happily accept. It’s a great feeling to start the tournament with three points against one of the biggest contenders for the title.”
The Disaster in Durban, as it will be known throughout Spanish history, was completed by Switzerland’s Gelson Fernandes, who poked in a loose ball in the box in the 52nd minute. From there on in, they played rope-a-dope, trying to hang on against a Spanish team many had picked to win it all.
And while Spain stepped on the gas pedal in an attempt to somehow create the equalizer, the closest they would come was a bullet off the toe of Xabi Alonso that smacked off the cross bar and back into play in the 72nd minute.
Spain went into the game having lost just one of its previous 49 games, that defeat also coming in South Africa during last year’s Confederation Cup semifinal against the U.S.
It’s obvious the Spaniards don’t like this country too much.
The Swiss, on the other hand, may never want to leave.