Thursday, 8 July 2010
No Spain No Gain
Ooo, aren't they marvellous that Spain?
You just can't get the ball off them and they ping it around like some very elegant pinball machine. Every touch is a beautiful caress, every swivel and shimmy leaves the lumbering defender squinting in disbelief. Tis not footy. Tis poetry. Dribble, slurp, slaver...
Yes, yes, yes. Agreed, up to a point. But why can't the faffing beggars score more than one bloody goal! Eh?! It used to be a standing joke amongst football fans that your team could thrash the opposition 1-0. With Spain it's bloody well true.
It seems to me they're far too content being a kind of blissed-out Arsene Wenger wet dream and not too bothered about getting the job done. Germany should have been tonked. The team that put four past Argentina and England couldn't muster more than a sidefoot scuffer from the sub Toni Kroos (if that is his name. Strikes me that more and more international footballers sound like hairdressers - Artuto Vidal, Maxi Pereira...)
Now I'm not doubting the quality of the Spaniards and to be honest I can get a little bedazzled by the way they pass it about. Iniesta genuinely has a cloak of invisibility hidden under his shirt. Xabi Alonso's one-man campaign to make Rafa Benitez look the dimmest coach in club football is working perfectly. And Xavi Hernandez, who can make space for himself by raising an eyebrow, threads a pass with all the clairvoyance of a psychic octopus.
Why then, was I left hoping that Klose or someone might just blunder in a German winner?
I think it's this: Spain are the bunch of kids you come across on the playing fields and who challenge you to a kickabout and then spend the next hour turning you inside out more times than the half-price jumpers at TK Maxx. Not only that but they can't quite bring themselves to put the ball between the Adidas bags. If they can't score with a backheel or a scissor kick they just can't be arsed.
In other words, it's a bit bloody smug and although they're ostensibly goodies you can't help rooting for the ugly baddy to get a victory once. I mean I've been on the daleks' side during this season of Dr Who for the same reason. Rooting for Germany last night was like praying for Roadrunner to get squished by a boulder flung from an Acme Catapult.
Of course the acme of Spanish pissing about was Pedro's twist, turn and tumble when Torres just needed a little sidefoot across the box to record his latest glaring miss of the tournament. Just shoot, you little twat.
Dos patatas bravas per favor, Vicente. e muy than uno goal!
Still, you wondered why Del Bosque, still looking for all the world like the proud owner of a damn fine little tapas bar in downtown Salamanca that serves cracking Torres (the brandy), has taken so long to put the little Barca winger on at the start when Torres (the soon to be former Liverpool footballer) has been so abject.
Perhaps less noted but of more value has been Spain's really solid back two. I've always liked Puyol, niggly little Def Leppard reject though he is. Ramos is still a little wayward at the back but great going forward and a little more Red Hot Chili Peppers, I reckon. Capdevila is very dependable. And Fergie must still have a fit of Pique every time Gerard steps out from the back a la Lucio.
And, Capello, McClaren and every other numpty who's tried to make it work, please note that Fabregas doesn't start because Sr Del Bosque has a balanced midfield already - plus he has the nuts to leave out a good quality player rather than play him at left back just so he's on the bloody pitch!!!!
So it's Spain (ooh, aren't they just tippety-tappety tickety boo!) against Holland. Or the Netherlands. Why do they need two names for Christ's sake? Is there a difference? Anyway the Dutch have got there with a Dunga model, really. Two holding midfielders, and de Jong and Van Bommel seem to leave the pitch unsatisfied unless the studs on their vampire boots have tasted human blood, and an inventive front three in Sneijder, Van Persie and Robben. And Dirk Kuyt.
"Xavi... oh yes... I shall mark Xavi, boss... don't you vorry!"
And with the aid of the odd deflection, it's worked. Without being sparkling, or remotely Total Football, they've got the results. And in Robben and Sneijder they have the polar opposite of the shot-shy Spaniards. They may not be fit to light Cruyff's fags for him, but they've retained a bit of that shoot-on-sight tradition made glorious by the likes of Haan, Krol and Rep.
So it may well be that the Netherholls make the most of what little possession they have. But I doubt the ball will be more than a passing mayfly that glimmers and dies even as it appears. Spain will reign, I'm sure of it. Villa will confirm his golden-bootedness.
I just hope it's more than one-bloody-nil, that's all.