Let’s face it, taking out Tahiti in Thursday night’s Confederations Cup clash was never going to be the hardest part of the game for the World Champions. Not looking like mean-spirited, sandcastle-destroying bully boys during the encounter was the real business of the day in Brazil.
Then again, Spain also had to make sure they did not patronize the team’s less illustrious opponents and fail to put on a dignified display in the Maracana match. La Seleccion did not want to look like a world-class goalkeeper who allows a ten-year-old to score a penalty past him in the name of charity and good will.
Despite hitting double figures in the 10-0 victory over Tahiti, Vicente del Bosque’s side struck the right balance in this particular challenge. While plenty of chances were missed and Spain’s familiar hustling, bustling midfield was less vivacious than usual, the attacking play from Spain was nothing less than committed.
Although 10 changes were made from the previous win over Uruguay, players of the quality of David Silva, Juan Mata, David Villa and Javi Martinez can hardly be considered wet behind the ears substitutes. Indeed, the 11 started by the Spanish manager could possibly get the better of the supposed first-choice lineup over 90 minutes.
Thursday’s selection of Spain’s finest took just five minutes to take the lead over Tahiti after an effort from Fernando Torres. In the end, the Chelsea striker finished with four goals, however the clash was a bit of a no-win situation for Torres. Scoring four is what should be expected from the striker, considering the chances created and the limited quality of the Tahiti defense. Had Torres scored anything less and the pointing and laughing from the Spanish homeland would not have been hard to find.
Instead, Torres was a focused and professional figure but also showed a number of human touches in consoling and supporting opposition goalkeeper, Roche. Speaking to journalists after the match, the Chelsea man praised the spirit of the Pacific Islanders. “They are happy people and I really enjoyed seeing them smiling and enjoying themselves until the last minute,” said Torres on a game that rarely required the Spanish to get out of first gear.
In footballing terms, Spain’s victory revealed nothing at all except confirming the notion that the World Champions are a finer side than the best offered up by an island in the Pacific ocean. However, the completion of the contest saw a number of mini milestones achieved by Del Bosque’s side. Spain struck the right balance in the manner of the victory, and showed excellent sportsmanship before, during and after the encounter.
The game also saw the completion what can be considered the joke element of the Confederations Cup. It was the clash that had taxi drivers all over the land tutting the word “Tahiti” in a less than appreciative manner and wondering if the entire footballing jamboree in Brazil was not a giant waste of time.
Spain’s next match against Nigeria will be a considerably meatier affair to be followed potentially by the knockout stages. For the moment though, it is a bit of a sigh of relief in Spain that paradise lost in the end and everything else on the night went to plan.