musings on the WC final

Before the Spain v Germany game, there was a lot of talk about Germany being the most entertaining side in the world cup and Spain being a right bore. Of course, Spanish fanboys then came up with the gem that Spain’s football is ‘beautiful’ if you’re a ‘true football connoisseur’ and other assorted snipes. To their credit, they are to an extent right. Spain do play lovely possession football, and if you have an eight year old kid who is interested in football, you make them watch Spain’s football rather than Germany’s ultra pragmatic, yet quite sexy counter-attacking football.

Now after the semi-final between these two, many Spanish fans pointed out how the German side got shown up, primarily because the German’s didn’t score first and as a result didn’t get a chance to counter and score a few past the Spanish. Again, they’re spot on. That is exactly what happened – Germany were poor and struggled to stick a coherent passing movement together. But they were, of course, playing the Spanish. I think over the course of this world cup, most Spanish fans have forgotten how phenomenally good their team is. I think the constant 1-0s and not having been ‘appreciated’ by the world for their lovely tiki-taka has managed to lead them to painting themselves as underdogs, where it was up to them to take care of the Germans as opposed to the other way around. And that is what I find quite perplexing.

Before the start of the tourney, Spain were the favourites for anyone with half a brain. Not the Germans, or the Brazilians, or the Argies or the Dutch. It was Spain. So the fact that they’re in the final isn’t surprising – how they’ve gotten there however is a completely different kettle of fish.

A poor showing against Switzerland where the Swiss ought to have put more past the Spanish was quite hilarious, but since them Spain seem to not have recovered enough to replicate the verve with which they marauded to the ’08 Euros. Now, maybe they invited pressure onto themselves with their mauling of Poland in the lead up to the WC, but I don’t know. Or, it could be as one person on a forum pointed out, that Xavi and Iniesta and co. were struggling cause they didn’t have Messi up front.

But there’s the thing – apart from Switzerland, Spain really haven’t ever struggled. They’ve always done enough – akin to German sides of yore. Although they’ve done it in more style, I wonder how many points you can give to a team for having shitloads of possession but not having much to show for it, in terms of goals or chances. Too often, Spain have flattered to deceive, though the million dollar question is whether that’s because they’ve wanted to do so, or because that’s the extent of their cumulative talent or the formation Del Bosque’s playing.

The Dutch too aren’t the purveyors of total football that previous Dutch sides were (they haven’t been playing total football since 2004). But they’ve been ruthless and pragmatic and simply very, very good. Unlike the Spanish, they’ve won every game they’ve played in, and they’ve done so quite comfortably. And in Sneijder & Robben they’ve got two of the most in-form players on the planet. To a large extent the Dutch too have flattered to deceive, deciding to play within themselves. Yet, they could easily have over the course of the tournament score at least a half dozen more goals – and I’m not talking half chances.

But anyway, that wasn’t my point., I think.

Spain need to score four goals in the final to equal the tally of the lowest ever goals scored by a team in the world cup final.

That’s quite a damning statistic. If Spain wins the world cup, they’d be winning it with the least amount of goals ever scored. The Spanish won’t care, and why should they. But does it bode well for Spanish football’s moral high horse? It’s fair enough if you’re an aesthetically attractive team, and I’m sure we’ll hear the familiar refrain of “goals aren’t the only thing that matters”, but surely, the lowest scorers ever?

I think it’ll be a travesty. It doesn’t matter how deserving the Spanish are (if they win the final, they’re likely to have done it on the basis of hard work etc – they aren’t a lucky side, so they would be fairly deserving), and the fact remains that despite the Dutch having a longer unbeaten streak, few can argue that Spain aren’t the best side on the planet. But, for this connoisseur of football, it’ll be a damning indictment for a team that claims to adhere to beautiful football – because possession football (or tiki-taka) is largely shit if it doesn’t bag you chances and goals, regardless of its qualities even as a defensive tactic.

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