What We Learned From Spain vs Switzerland (0-1)

If It Continues Like This It Will Be Bad

Stultifyingly negative anti-football that elevates technocratic defensive organisation and tedious teamwork above attacking ambition and individual flair. Timid teams more afraid of losing than they are of grabbing the initiative, attacking and actually, get this, winning matches. Thoroughly ghastly confrontations between teams that we don’t care for playing games they don’t give a shit about. This is a bad thing.

If It Continues Like This It Will Be Good

One particularly interesting thing we’re seeing is that the games change dramatically as soon as there’s a goal (the Germany/Oztralia match aside). Things speed up, the game gets stretched and occasionally bouts of football break out around the pitch. This is particularly true when the apparent victim of the tie, the designated loser if you will, gets the goal. Then questions are asked that go beyond the simple, Can you defend with 10 men behind the ball? and start addressing the real skill of the team. By going behind, Spain were forced to live up to the game and their pretty tippy-tappy game was challenged. They promptly bottled it by immediately switching to a less focused and equally ineffective longer ball game, which only began to pay off when Torres and Jesus Navas came on to provide genuine attacking threat. The fact Spain lost doesn’t absolve the defensive tedium philosophy, but it does mean they will have to up their game and really go for it in their next two matches. They now have the prospect of meeting Brazil in the first knockout round. Game on or what!

Good On The Swiss

For a team that managed to make it into the knockout round of the last World Cup and get eliminated without either conceeding or scoring a goal, and who played out the single most utterly painful game I’ve ever seen in their match with Ukraine – two teams in the World Cup playing for penalties from the word go – the Swiss have done themselves proud. First, they actually scored a goal, albeit a super-messy scuffer that involved not one but three people falling on their arses, second, they showed both technique and dedication and, finally, they won and beat the Spanish. I still hope they don’t get through to the knockout stages, but they did themselves proud.

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