As I stroll across a concrete path lined up with trees on either sides casually sporting my Spanish national team jersey (fear not readers, this is not a telling incident), a 9-yr-old boy comes running up to me, uttering, “Sir, my name is Raul too! And I have a similar shirt”. Just when he manages to control his breath, he stuns me by saying, “I am sorry but Spain will not win the Euro”. He then jogged away into the house he came out from.
Stunned because one barely expects to be chased down by a kid of that age who has some sort of an opinion on football here in the US.
One could expect it in Dubai but not in Teaneck, New Jersey.
The boy’s opinion, conversely, turns out to be the best part. He made me ponder over a belief that I supported based on Spain winning the Euro 2012. He managed to do this on a day when I was least expecting; a day that I intended to give my brain cells a break from football.
Question that came up was. “Why Spain?” And does my appreciation for Barcelona influence my decision? Or is it simply because they won the Championship four years ago?
Having watched the many recent friendlies of Spain against non-Euro qualified teams; I will have to agree that Spain’s chances do look a little fragile. Especially, considering their knack of defensive errors and the omission of their focal defensive guard, Carlos Puyol from the team due to a knee injury.
The other major issue on the table for Spain would be on figuring out how to break down the eleven-man-defense that teams would deploy against their gung-ho playing style. Barcelona’s struggle to break down Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League semifinals was a classic example.
Not suggesting that Barcelona and Spain are the same but they often display a style that is unique to the system we know as tiki-taka.
This is when the concept of a special breed of players, as explained in the findings of FIFA’s technical team after the 2010 World Cup, needs to be introduced. Teams need a class of athletes that can use technique and skills to get past the opposition in one-on-one situation.
“Such players have football brains, are quick to read the game and can outfox the opposition defense with an outstanding piece of individual skill.”
– FIFA 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ Technical Report and Statistics
Now, what does the above mean?
In laymen terms, the report basically generalizes that teams with great wingers, like Robben (Netherlands), Ribery (France), C. Ronaldo (Portugal) and Muller (Germany), will eventually succeed as the defensive line-ups become more and more compact.
We all recognize the potential of the above-mentioned countries to produce a counter at will. Hence, as spectators we should look forward to that.
Finally, when I come across individuals referring to certain teams as weak, I can only rebuttal saying that the concept of team being “weak” does not exist. There are no more smaller or weaker teams. We had seen it time and time again with these “weaker” nations qualifying and at times, doing wonders in the several World Cup’s played, the Euro’s, Asian and the African Championships.
It all comes down to the hunger of the team and the players within to go that one step further and achieve the success they had been working towards.
Whatever happens in these coming weeks, this competition will be intense, as football always tends to be.
This summer, regardless of outcome, will undeniably push Spain into developing a new strategy in order to break down the opposition. But until the rest of the nations work through their ambiguous instincts regarding a playing style, there is no reason to believe that my support for Spain will go away anytime soon.
My allegiance lies with a team that displays sheer beauty. And I define beauty here based on the quality displayed on the offensive end with includes intricate passing, magnificent through balls and spectacular finishes.
I will remember that young boy who succeeded in unsettling my peaceful thoughts that day. A boy who came and went like the summer rain. And the paradox of the statement:
It ended up raining, a few minutes later.