Spain's victory over Italy in Sunday's UEFA Euro 2012 final sparked a premature debate about the side's standing as the greatest international soccer team of all time.
La Roja still have work to do before they deserve that title.
The primary argument for Spain is that they are the first team to win three major tournaments in a row. This is an impressive feat. It warrants praise and does indeed place Spain among history's best.
It does not, however, give Spain a free ride all the way to the top.
Keep in mind that two of Spain's three major tournament wins came in the Euro Championships. This is easily the second most difficult international tournament to win, so let's not completely minimize that accomplishment. But Spain's top contenders for the G.O.A.T. label don't even get the chance to compete in this field.
World Cups must remain the standard when discussing the best ever.
Brazil won consecutive World Cups in 1958 and 1962. Brazil also ripped off a stretch from the 1994 World Cup to the 2007 Copa America in which they won two World Cups and four Copa America titles while losing the final of the 1998 World Cup and the 1995 Copa America.
It is easy to poke holes in the Brazil argument by pointing to the fact that they never accomplished what Spain did by winning three major tournaments in a row. But what about that string of Spanish titles? Let's not forget that Spain lost to the United States in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semifinals.
This is not an endorsement of the Confederations Cup as a major tournament. It clearly pales in comparison to Euro and Copa America. But that is no reason to exclude it as a black mark on Spain's G.O.A.T. resume.
The "Best Ever" should not be caught losing to a team like USA in a competitive match. The Confederations Cup may not be major, but that just makes it all the more suspicious when the "Greatest Team of All Time" can't even make it to the final of this second-rate field.
Spain's current run ranks right up there with that of any team in history. Granting them any more than that, however, is merely reacting as a prisoner of the moment.
Comparing the current resume of Spain with that of former Brazil sides is a fruitless endeavor until Spain builds more history in tournaments that can be compared to Brazil's. This does not minimize what Spain has already done, it just acknowledges that Spain is not done yet.
Conveniently enough, the next World Cup just happens to be scheduled in Brazil. Let's wait to see what happens there before deciding on Spain's place in history.
A second-consecutive World Cup win for La Roja on South American soil would leave no doubt in this conversation. Spain's pair of Euro titles can then be appropriately viewed as strong supporting evidence. Featuring them as part of the main argument, however, elevates them into a place that should be reserved only for World Cups.
Spain is in the process of building a tremendous case to be considered the greatest international team in soccer history. But before we hear any closing arguments in Brazil, the jury will remain out.
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