Archive for July 7th, 2010

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

Somebody Somewhere Is Playing The Bee-Gees

Tragedy, when the feeling’s gone and you can’t go on, tragedy“, played out of the window by some local fool, the lyrics float through the breeze here in the summertime. The saddest thing is that they’re probably not even watching the football. They’re blissfully unaware that they’ve put on the soundtrack to Germany’s summer football dream. Germany, the team who, more than any other here, have embodied the notion of decisive attacking football, who’ve done more than any other team to counter the pernicious influence of the Mourinho Discipline, who’ve provided the best (often sole) entertainment of the tournament and who, after this, are not going to the final. It’s not just a tragedy, it’s a fucking disgrace.

But Germany were well and truly outdone, cut apart and pig-stuck by a Spanish team that has never shown the slightest trace of ambition or fluency. Instead, Spain have developed their own form of football torture, death by a thousand passes. I’ve been greatly disappointed by the Spanish, who, aside from playing some really tedious matches have shown little or no attempt to entertain in any way. They represent, in truth, the counterpoint to the Mourinho Discipline, not its nemesis. For all their pretty passing, tikki takka ‘creativity’, they make far more passes backwards into their own stable area than they do into genuinely dangerous spaces within their opponents’ halfs. They are thoroughly conservative in the worst possible sense, never playing a decisive game changing pass unless it is 100% certain. Instead they’d rather play it around the back , luring the opposition out of position and then punishing them on the break.

It’s a thoroughly cynical, dirty game that provides no evidence of joy or excitement and it’s largely failed at this tournament, which is a surprising thing given that Spain are in the final. It’s about stifling the game, boring the opposition into submission, like some dastardly invention of the inquisition. Confess your sins, they seem to be saying, or we will continue to pass the bastard ball around the back. It’s not about game changing, it’s about game killing, which is why it really only works when Spain are one up. It is no coincidence that Spain have won all the games that matter 1 – 0. And it’s no coincidence that their goal here came from a set piece rather than any intricate bit of tippy tappy bullshit. In many ways they are the George Graham Arsenal of international football, only they can pass it about a bit.

In truth, they did what they did spectacularly well and Germany, the Germany who’ve appeared to always have some kind of tactical advantage, fell into their trap. Like both Engerland and Argentina, Spain played with a high backline, which should have let the Germans have the run of the game. However, Spain’s defence is much tighter than either of Germany’s victims – they actually appear able to defend – and Germany had no luck breaking through it. No, Germany was far too busy playing a game they’re not used to, lining up in two banks of four in a formation uncannily similar to the Mourinho Discipline. And you know what, they’re nowhere near as accomplished at it as the Swiss. Boateng especially looked thoroughly outclassed and out of his comfort zone, and provided the space on the Spanish right for pretty much all of their attacking in the first half. Another big loss for Germany was Mueller, who was suspended for one of those really irritating, given by a Mexican referee yellow cards. He’s one of those players who isn’t really flamboyant, but whose work at the midfield point of the attack is only truly appreciated when he’s gone. And he is critical to Germany’s game.

So, bye-bye the undoubted best team in the tournament. Not bye-bye to one of the least. Fuck me this World Cup is a bastard.

62 Down 2 To Go, 2 Teams Remaining