Spain’s negative tactics and broing soccer killed the World Cup

That was miserable. It is remarkable what Vicente del Bosque has done to an awesome collection of skilled players.

Spain's negativity killed the World Cup

Spain’s most potent attacking play is a corner kick. Spain’s negativity is entirely elective – with that array of attacking skill they could overwhelm teams. But they choose to destroy the game by clogging  the middle of the field and keep possession without trying to score goals until the defense made a mistake. Only it hardly ever happend. The result was a dire final unworthy of Spanish and Dutch tradition. Italy and France, yest. Spain and the Netherlands, no.

Spain are very skilled. So what. They won their last four games 1-0.  They scored only 8 goals in the seven games of the tournament, eerily reminiscent of the 7 goals Greece scored to win Euro 2004 in six games.  The Americans scored 5 (really 7) in just four games and just one of the US games had more chances and excitement than all of Spain’s combined. You don’t believe me? The Guardian’s Richard Williams, who said, “Holland and Spain’s anti-football let Europe down.”

What happened to the swashbuckling Spain that won Euro 2008 by scoring the same number of goals in the group stage that this iteration managed in the entire tournament? Was the shocking loss to the United States at the 2009 Confederations Cup that troubling for Spain that they simply could not recover their attacking verve?

The reasons for Spain’s dull display are obvious and entirely intentional. Their modified 4-2-3-1 featured essentially five central midfielders in Busquets, Alonso, Iniesta, Xavi, and Pedro. In short, there was no width. The only wide play came from full backs Joan Capdivilla and Sergio Ramos. But the buildup was so slow that by the time the ball was pushed out to them on the flanks the defense was easily able to cut out whatever crosses did come in.

The negative approach of the Spanish was made even more apparent by the substitutions del Bosque made during the second half – bringing on Jesus Navas and Cesc Fabregas for Pedro and Alonso significantly changed the game – opening up space for both teams. The winger Navas actually stretched the Dutch defenders for the first time and Fabregas was instantly more a factor going forward than Alonso. Of course, this allowed the Dutch the chance to break into this space too – but the most intersting part of the game was clearly the time between the Spanish substitutions and the ridiculous red card on Heitinga.

Spain won the World Cup. Congratulations. Its been far too long in coming. I wont begrudge their supporters the chance to revel in victory. But their performance certainly lost them the respect of many soccer fans around the world. And that’s a real shame.


6 Responses

  1. Hey, I was right! Van Bommell and De Jong both got red cards in the first half. Or at least they should have, if the ref had called the game in front of him.

    How you can call Spain negative and detrimental to the sport after the Netherlands’ shockingly cynical display of thuggery is beyond me.

    I do like the blog, though.

  2. I’m with you, Ken, and wonder what game Tedd H watched. Van Bommel deserved the yellow and DeJong’s could gone yellow or red, I don’t think it was intentional – though very dangerous and very stupid – so I agreed, mostly, with the yellow. And the yellow’s reduced the aggression of both, as intended.
    What you failed to mention was the cynical flopping – responsible for the red. I lost a tremendous amount of respect for Spain’s futbol today.

  3. Thank goodness someone else saw it. Listening to the media fawn over Spain the way they are is disturbing.

  4. In re: the flopping, why is it that so many people endorse the use of yellows to control physical play but forget that they are supposed to come out to control flopping, too? Not just not give a foul for a flop but give a yellow for cynical flops… Iniesta, throughout the game, anyone?

  5. Spain just adapted its game by the way of controlling the ball too much because of the bulliness of inferior teams who don’t even dare to open it’s game to avoid a complete defeat, it’s not the other way around.
    And yes, last year game against USA was a call in favor of that. If you loosers plant the bus in your field, don’t expect the other team to allow you counter attack because of risking the ball.
    And you complain about flopping, but if the referee it’s not calling red cards out of extremely violent fouls, then you have no other choice than flopping to at least balance the fauls that he is not calling.
    Every single team facing Spain since eurocup have played a cynical anti football and FIFA has allowed to go further and further until we reach the climax in the final, when some dutch players should have not onlyu be expelled, but also jailed.
    Germans at least played fair, though they couldn’t barely do their game because of their cynical “plant the bus in my goal before they screw me with some crazy ballpasses” attitude.
    UK, USA and Dutch football is brightless and one generation behind spanish, or Barcelona for what it matters.
    You better think about it and your love for coaches like Benitez and Mourinho in the premier league.
    Shame to Real Madrid president who is bringing that same bullshit to the Liga.

  6. Haha Hector, look at you. Silly man, silly man.
    Who brought Barça to their current standards? GULLIT, RIJKAARD AND CRUIJFF.

    Yeah, Dutch are behind.

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