I told one of my friends at the beginning of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship that I had only one wish: I didn't want Spain to win.
(Note to readers: Never bet on teams I support or or against those I want to lose. Period. See West Ham United.)
Though England was my sentimental favorite heading into Euro 2012, I was hoping for a German victory, as I felt the German team had the best chance at ending Spain’s sometimes beautiful, sometimes somnambulistic tyranny over world football.
As if scripted, Mario Balotelli single-handedly changed the story, preferring to use his powers as he usually does—for evil.
Flashes of brilliance are all Balotelli has, and he saved this for one game where he was able to eliminate the one team that might have had the prowess to knock Spain down a notch. Instead, he scored two fantastic goals in one game and then proceeded to watch his fellow Italians as Spain dismantled them piece by piece.
Thank you Super Mario.
It’s not that I have anything against Spain. Far from it. Spain is a admirable nation, with fantastic wine, gorgeous scenery, great people and fabulous football. What they also have is a kind of death-by-attrition view of tactics, where they pass and pass and pass and bleed their opponent slowly.
It can be beautiful and flowing, with all the grace of a symphony, but it also can be dreadfully boring. Watching Iniesta pass to his center backs, then back to him, then to Xavi, then to the center backs, then back to him, then to the center backs again, then to the full back, then to him, then to Xavi – well, you get the idea. It is terribly effective, and they are the best ball holders in the world.
But God is it boring.
As if to spite me—and as if them winning the tournament again wasn’t bad enough—Spain scored four goals. FOUR GOALS. The nil-nil draw that I had envisioned was arrogantly and brazenly trampled upon, daring the world to say they play boring football. So I will.
They play boring football.
My children and their children will look back at this and ask me if I actually saw the Spain of the new millennium play their famous football and defeat everyone in their path. I will confirm having done so, and my children and grandchildren will marvel at my pained expression, disbelieving that I found this mastery, this unrivaled level of skill, annoying.
But they won’t understand. They won’t go back and watch a team that slowly, carefully smothers the opposition, taking the game away from the game. They will just remember the number of victories, the length of their famed run. But not me.
I’ll remember that the rain in Spain goes everywhere, plains and stadiums included. It also drowns football.