Dancing to a Spanish Rhythm

8 07 2010

It is usually said that semi finals are the best games to watch in any cup competition as both sides have everything to gain from winning. Indeed the best match in any sport we have seen was in this context – the France versus New Zealand rugby semi final of the 1999 Rugby World Cup had everything and showed what can be achieved in these situations.

By contrast last nights match between Spain and Germany was a pretty dull affair, rarely moving above the pedestrian and certainly not having any of the cut and thrust that you usually associate with these teams although it should probably be emphasised that this was the Germans fault rather than the Spanish. Germany, who prior to this match had played with an unparalleled sharpness and incisiveness, retreated into their shell and played with bodies behind the ball, stifling Spain and the match.

Spain, on the other hand, passed the ball around and looked dangerous up until the final third of the pitch where the massed ranks of Germans were waiting. To be fair to Spain they did improve in the second half as they took more direct routes through the German defence, yet, at no point was this a classic. Undoubtedly the men in red deserved to win but, as with much, of this World Cup we were left feeling a little shortchanged.

Despite this feeling we couldn’t help but marvel at the Spanish passing and sheer footballing ability. Even when they were in the tightest of corners a couple of deft touches would see them with enough room to work their pass to the next player who would swiftly move it on to space where yet another assault could begin. Iniesta in particular has impressed us with how close the ball stays to his feet when on the move.

The referee deserves some praise in our eyes too. There have been ref’s through out this tournament who are only too willing to blow up for the dives, histrionics and alleged infringements on show; the worst case being in the Portugal Brazil game in the group stages where seemingly every challenge was blown up and a card awarded. Last nights ref let the game flow and frequently told players lying on the ground gesticulating to get up and get on with it. What flow the game had was in no little way down to him.

Looking ahead to the final now; we believe there will be heartbreak for the Dutch as Spain should eventually outclass them. It will be extremely surprising if Holland retreat into the sort of football Germany did as they have some brilliant and dangerous players in their own right; yet the Spanish machine is looking ominously well oiled and with a little more room to play in the final third should score too many goals for the combative Dutch.



3 responses

8 07 2010
James Parrett

I think we were watching a different game Brad…?! I thought it was a brilliant game. Two totally different footballing styles played at a v high level. Surely you being an Arsenal fan can recognise the counter attacking tactics of the Germans??

The ref missed a pen in the first half and should have booked Alonso for a few over-enthusiastic challenges too. He only let it flow because he kept missing things.

8 07 2010

Hi Pol,

Granted the Germans had a few good moments but I was disappointed by their lack of adventure on the whole. I was impressed with Spain but it seemed to me that Germany were spoiling the match rather than contributing with their deep lying tactics. I had actually found myself supporting the Germans (despite having Spain in a sweepstake) as earlier in the tournament they had played with such vitality dynamism so perhaps I’m just disappointed.

Regarding the ref, I prefer that on the whole than a stop start affair of which the apogee was the Brazil Portugal game. Either way, really looking forward to the final!

Cheers mate.

9 07 2010

Brad, I think you are being harsh on the Germans. Spain plays a defensive possession game. They pretty much always had at least 6 men back, which prevented the Germans from counter-attacking. They count on their technical skills to maintain possession and score despite being heavily out-numbered in attack. Only in the second half did Alonso push forward a little, whereas before half-time their play consisted of working the ball onto a wing to cross for their diminutive and outnumbered strikers. More importantly, in the second half Iniesta and Pedro spread out a little, whereas if you check the FIFA positioning diagrams, Spain were ridiculously narrow in the first half.

I doubt you’ll see a spectacle in the final. The Dutch play the same way as Spain (but technically inferior). Most of their goals come from set-pieces after Robben or Schneider have drawn a foul with their runs. If the ref lets play go they’ll struggle to get a shot. I think Spain will win this easily, but without scoring many – they kill a game so easily a 1-0 is likely.

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