The football is done and the victor is crowned. Spain recorded a remarkable achievement in winning their third International event in a row and becoming the first side to defend the European Championships in the process. Debate raged throughout the tournament about the boredom in football homes well watching Spain play, in fact I was one of the many leading this debate. But on Sunday night they made me eat my words with a display of attacking football that put the beautiful back into the game.
As a result of this game a heated debate will definitely arise again about whether or not the current Spain squad is the greatest international team in history. Of course the biggest comparison will be with the Brazil squad of the 70’s. But entertaining this debate is as worthwhile as the debate on whether Graeme Pollock would have averaged more than Don Bradman if South Africa had not been isolated from sport. It’s also about as useful as Julius Malema at a DA conference.
So instead of taking all this time to investigate if Pele’s Brazil or Casillas’ Spain were better, let’s just marvel at the complete domination of Spain in world football right now. Euro 2012 was, as previously stated, their third international tournament win on the trot. At Euro 2008 Spain annihilated Russia, beat Greece and Sweden in the group stages, before beating Italy on penalties and giving Russia another hiding. They beat the fancied Germans in the final thanks to a fantastic goal by Fernando Torres.
In this time Spain also equalled the 35 match unbeaten run of Brazil in the early 1990’s succumbing only against USA in the Confederations Cup Semi Final, the only blip on their spectacular run. They arrived at 2010 as favourites but lost in a shock to Switzerland before turning on the magic and producing a sensational defensive run to the final beating Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and Holland on the way to hoisting the trophy. Their top scorer at both these tournaments was David Villa and he would be missing for the Euro 2012 tournament.
Would that stop them? Absolutely not. Vincent Del Bosque would just play his 6 man midfield instead. It was a decision that was ridiculed for much of the tournament, but in the final it proved its worth as Italy had no idea which midfielder would run.
In their 5 years of domination now, they have beaten almost all of the top 10 nations (Except England!) and have played some beautiful football along the way. Portugal once dominated junior football by winning the Under 17 and Under 19 World Cups, but the golden generation of Figo and company failed on the major stage. Spain have not. Their domination though is not just in the main game; they are currently the holders of the U19 European Championship as well as the U21 European Championship and must be one of the favourites for the 2012 Olympics.
I think it’s merely important that we realise that the domination we are seeing by Spain is something that we may not see again in our lifetimes and the incredible combination play of Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and company may at times be less than satisfying, but on nights like the Euro 2012 Final, there is nothing more beautiful in the game!