Euro 2012 Final: What Spain's Victory Tells Us About Football
After their dominant four-goal display against Italy in the Euro 2012 final, Spain are deservedly basking in the limelight.
After all, their opponents had defeated a tournament favorite in the semifinal and had attracted many admiring glances from all over the continent.
Having endured claims that Spain had deviated from their traditional attacking philosophy associated with the beautiful game, Vicente del Bosque’s charges responded in the final with their best performance in the tournament to round off a great European Championship.
Besides that, Spain are now a peerless national team. Here are six things that Spain’s steamrollering victory over Italy tells us about football.
Football Is About Philosophy
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Tiki-taka. Pass and move. Total football.
These are but three of the most famous footballing philosophies in the history of the game, the first of which has been developed to near perfection by Spain.
In recent seasons, FC Barcelona, most notably under the leadership of Pep Guardiola, have shown us that the most important thing in football is the philosophy.
That philosophy took Barcelona to unprecedented heights for the club, and indeed for such a “new” coach, who of course had been schooled in that exact philosophy during his playing career.
The idea used to be that club football can afford to develop a philosophy because players who work with each other every day can get to know themselves inside out.
Spain’s three consecutive tournament wins have shown us that international football is also about philosophy.
You Need a League/Youth Structure That Supports Your Philosophy
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But just having a philosophy on the national level isn’t enough. In fact, having a philosophy on the club level isn’t enough either.
To understand and contextualize Spain’s achievements, we need to consider the structure of the Spanish football system, which prizes youth development and affords young players the chance to play competitive football.
Much has been made of Barcelona’s La Masia academy. But equally important is the developmental opportunities that the reserve teams of Spain’s top clubs (Barcelona and Real Madrid) have in the Spanish footballing ladder.
It is a model that Germany has been looking to replicate, and has done to much acclaim (but of course, still falls short of Spain’s).
Contrast this with the English Premier League’s ultra-competitive first-team league but its almost lethargic reserves league, and the picture on the national level becomes much clearer.
Club Doesn’t Necessarily Trump Country
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Most refreshingly, this European Championship has shown us that international football can be equally as exciting as club football.
So much emphasis has been put on the money-spinning domestic leagues that admittedly strive to bring in the best players in the world to support their money-spinning business ventures.
The tactics, players and footballing styles on show this summer have rivaled those usually reserved for the Champions League, usually considered the Holy Grail of football competitions.
But, from the Chelsea-esque backs-to-the-wall style employed by Roy Hodgson’s England, to the counterattacking brilliance of Paulo Bento’s Portugal, to the swaggering confidence of Joachim Low’s Germany, Euro 2012 has shown off that variety and contrast that international football can bring to the table.
The beauty of the international game is also that club rivalry can be transformed into a beautiful alliance in a national team jersey.
The sight of Real Madrid and Barcelona players, who clash so famously in every El Clasico, passing to perfection and working in perfect tandem in La Fura Roja shirt is one that should be treasured.
Team, Team, Team
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Teams with one star player tend to only fare so well before they inevitably fall. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal proved again this tournament.
By shelving and playing past (for the most part) El Clasico rivalry that dominates Spain’s La Liga—the Real Madrid and Barcelona players, who make up most of the Spain squad—put country first and turned in polished team performances after polished team performances.
Of course, the fact that the likes of Fernando Llorente and Juan Mata saw minimal playing time in Poland and Ukraine is a testament to the pure strength of the squad Vicente del Bosque had at his disposal.
And perhaps it's purely because Spain's is a squad full of superstars that there isn't the one standout superstar. But it is also a measure of the togetherness and the teamwork that Spain embody that they finished the tournament with both the most goals scored and the least conceded.
And Fernando Torres, a perennial substitute this summer, finished with the Golden Boot.
Style, Substance and Success Can Coexist
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While the success stories of Chelsea and Internazionale (see: the success stories of Jose Mourinho) have shown that pragmatism has its important merits, we learned from Barcelona that style, substance and success can coexist.
Of course, this depends on your definition of style: Manchester United’s patented counterattacking approach has its considerable style, and Real Madrid’s blistering game is also enjoyable to the extreme. But the style in question is Spain’s passing-oriented game centered around the use of the ball.
The (in)famous 4-6-0 employed throughout the tournament served to augment the perception that Spain have too much up their sleeves.
Spain also have three consecutive tournament wins up their sleeves.
The idea that all three S’s aren’t mutually exclusive is quickly catching on.
That’s what got Brendan Rodgers, who led his Swansea side on an impressive tiki-taka foundation, the job at an underwhelming Liverpool.
Spain: Once in a Generation
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The most important thing Spain’s victory has told us about football is that they are a national team destined for the footballing pantheon.
Gary Lineker once said, “Football is a simple a game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
It’s now time to replace “Germans” with their Spanish counterparts.
Our chief task as football fans is to continue to enjoy what the Spanish national team can bring us, hope that their aesthetically-pleasing dominance continues, and pray that this kind of golden generation will be present once in a while.
Let us know what you thought about Spain’s victory in the comments below.