Campeones, iOle!: Spain's Winning Ways

Ben RaynakCorrespondent IJune 30, 2008

Spain play the type of football that you want to watch. The game finishes, and you immediately want to find a ball, go outside and play yourself.

Spain hadn’t won an international tournament in 44 years, and hadn’t been in a final for 24 years before Sunday. But, the way that they played, and won, in every single match that they laced up for, is a testament to the sport itself, and the way the game should be played and approached.

I’m going to try and refrain from being repetitive in this article, but it’s hard not to after witnessing one of the most inspiring tournament performances in European history—from a nation of screw-ups no less.

Here are some of my most notable notables from Spain’s dazzling European 2008 campaign.

Marcos Senna was one the most fantastic players of the tournament, holding the midfield in check while protecting the back line with ferocious consistency. I have to say, every time Senna goes into a tackle you’re probably looking at an infraction, but it is a necessary element that has been lacking from a decidedly meek Spanish squad for decades. Pick of the tournament for true all-round football enthusiasts.

Iker Casillas has to be counted as the premier goalkeeper in the world after his performance in this Euro; I’m going to come right out and say it, he’s the best. He was tested once—ONCE—in Spain’s 1-0 win over Germany on Sunday, but even then he was solid. Moment to watch: his flying punch on a dangerous free kick looped into Spain’s box in the second half. Don’t even get me started on the penalties. Magnificent.

A positive collective attitude in both morale and tactical terms pulled Spain towards the finals like a black Andalucian bull. Camaraderie was as high in the Spanish camp as it was unbelievable, considering Spain’s fractured past in football as well as politics.

Difference-making circumstances: Puyol’s decidedly disconnected attitude with all things political (as opposed to his decidedly connected attitude towards his iPod) and the rest of the apathetic Catalan contingent presented in the Spanish camp.

Keep in mind the single Basque representative in Xabi Alonso and a lack of Raul’s unfettered flag-waving "leadership," and you’ve got a Spain squad that actually gets on. And it’s all thanks to…

Luis Aragones. As I’ve already written an article on good old Scrooge, I won’t repeat myself that much. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to miss out on the opportunity to say "I told you so."

Aragones might be old, grumpy, stubborn, outspokenly abrasive, generally unpleasant, and even "un poco racista" (just a little racist, as the Spanish admit they are from time to time), but tactically, he is a genius. I suppose after almost 70 years, you’re going to pick something up along the way, and pick it up he did.

All in all, Spain were almost tactically perfect, offensively and defensively dominating, supremely entertaining and universally complete. Every player in the squad even played some time, all except Andres Palop, the third string goalkeeper—bless his soul.

If anything, the brevity of this article is in essence a reflection of how beautiful Spain were in their campaign against the odds: stunning.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got more celebrating to do. Ole.