FIFA World Cup 2010: Is This Spain Side Brilliant or Boring?

Giancarlo RinaldiCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2010

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 07: Xavi Hernandez of Spain runs with the ball during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Semi Final match between Germany and Spain at Durban Stadium on July 7, 2010 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Everyone has their own view on what makes for beautiful football. Some seek only goals, others are titillated by tactics, and a few are even delighted by the dark arts of defence. What entertains one fan can seem deadly dull to another. 

These different tastes are what provoke the great debates of sport. The World Cup in South Africa has thrown up more than its share of topics for discussion. But few are more contentious than the question posed about one half of this weekend's finalists.

Are Spain brilliant or boring?

Having been smothered by Switzerland in their opening fixture, Vicente Del Bosque's side have since hit their stride with a string of narrow wins. Only against Honduras have they secured a two-goal margin of victory. They have enjoyed huge possession, but triumphed by only a single strike.

This is at the very heart of the debate about the merits of David Villa and company. Is their short-passing style an expression of footballing perfection? Or is it simply infuriating with its hypnotic periods of unbroken possession?

Fans of the Spanish approach dismiss such criticism as typical for any successful sportsman or team. Anyone who wins on a prolonged basis faces the accusation of making things boring. Think Pete Sampras at the peak of his tennis powers, Michael Schumacher in Formula One, or Lance Armstrong while he dominated the Tour de France.

The more they won, the more tedious it became for their rivals and opposition supporters. But it was a claim they shrugged off and just went on winning.

Spain could complete a memorable European Championship and World Cup double on Sunday night. So, let's be honest, a lot of people might be a little bit jealous.

Followers of Xavi, Iniesta, and the rest love the "tiki-taka" style and how it taunts opponents into trying to get the ball. It is part flamenco in its flamboyance, and part matador in its toying with the opponent. And, crucially, it has won matches.

That doesn't mean it has to be everyone's cup of tea.

A lot of football watchers find the pitter-patter of tiny passes incredibly frustrating. It may be admirable in technique, but it eschews the ultimate goal of the game, putting the ball in the net.

Sometimes, when yet another perfect one-two is completed on the edge of the penalty box, it is hard to avoid crying out: "Would somebody please just shoot?"

With three 1-0 victories in a row, however, it would appear that passing might be the best form of defence. But are the pretty patterns enough to entertain the neutral? Many of the matches have gone through long spells with a dearth of goalmouth action.

Heck, even supposedly ultra-defensive Italy scored more goals on their way to victory in 2006.

Undoubtedly, Spain's opponents have played their part in making many of their games less than attractive affairs. Portugal, Paraguay, and, to a lesser extent, Germany, all tried to sit deep and hit Spain on the break. None of them proved successful.

And that may, ultimately, be what answers the question about this Spanish side. If their tick-tock tactics beats Holland on Sunday they will have total vindication, if it is needed, for their approach.

Whether brilliant or boring, they will be on top of the world.