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The two Spains: the positive and the negative

June 21, 2008

Fernando Torres

THE OPTIMIST  (Elena Moya)    
Spain’s chances of beating Italy and reaching the Euro 2008 semi-finals are better than ever.      
‘This time is different’ is the line that is repeated tournament after tournament, just before the team inevitably falls in the quarter-finals. But on this occasion it really is different, and here’s why.

1) Spain’s inferiority complex - based on four centuries of Inquisition, a fallen empire and a dictatorship that only finished thirty years ago - is evaporating. A winning mentality has been fostered by players like Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas.

2) They have traditionally been unlucky in tournaments, losing in penalty shootouts a few times including in England in 1996 against the hosts. This time, late match-winning goals by David Villa and Daniel Guiza have shown Spain can also be lucky.

3) Being lucky has given Spanish players confidence that last-minute turnarounds can actually happen in their favour. Spain’s tragic history – in football and in politics – is not inevitable. That’s what the players are now beginning to believe.

THE PESSIMIST (William Kemble-Diaz)
Half-English, half-Spanish — a poisoned chalice handed down by the footballing gods. Why oh why wasn’t I born half-German, half-Argentinean, or half-Italian, half-Brazilian?      

At least at this championship I’m only facing inevitable disappointment once. So here we are again at the quarter-final stage of a major tournament, where Spain usually flounder. And it’s them again — Italy.

We have great players, possibly the best midfield in Europe, and a strike force that works  really hard. Torres and Villa are the best Spanish pairing in living memory — better than Raul and Morientes or Butragueno and Salinas. 

Italy have no Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo but can Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos finally step up to the plate and show their Real Madrid form, can Carles Puyol and Raul Albiol handle Luca Toni?      

Will we avenge the pain of the 1994 World Cup — one of many misfortunes to have befallen Spain on the big stage — when Mauro Tassotti broke Luis Enrique’s nose and no penalty was given? Do I want this one? Oh so much it hurts. Am I confident? No.

PHOTO: Spain striker Fernando Torres listens to a question during a news conference in Neustift, June 20 REUTERS/Felix Ausin Ordonez

Comments

As someone who is quarter-Germany, quarter Scottish, quarter Polish and the final quarter Danish (in other words: an American mongrel), I would think Kemble-Diaz has it right — Spain has great weather, great beaches, a great outlook on life, great players and a great domestic league. But let’s be thankful they usually choke in the big tournaments…as they probably will again this time. It makes the world a little bit fairer, no?

Posted by Erik Kirschbaum | Report as abusive
 

[This follows the match's result] Spain simply outplayed Italy, except in defence. Donadoni’s gameplan was cautious to the point of cowardice, All through the match, despite the winners ownership of midfield and the front, it was clear they easily get frustrated when things don’t go their way – esp. David Villa, whom I think is not fully strong, mentally. This is an area I feel the Azurri might have exploited to good effect. I don’t really think Spain was tested defensively. That said, it was telling that at one point the Spaniards had 70% ball possesion! The scales tipped back with the match ending at 57% possession to Italy’s 43%. It was a splendidly passing game and am not sure how many noticed, but numbers hardly lie. The game ended (full time) with Spain having completed 84% of their passes to Italy’s 77%. Now, that’s something. I was rooting for Spain and am glad the result ended up favoring them. They’re a good team but like Portugal – but I think it to be an Iberian prob – they need to work on their mentality. The true test of world class winning players is how they react to adversity. The winners seemed to get desperate as the match wore on, committing silly fouls (card-picking), and venting frustration on mates. Support your mate at all times; give him a talk afterwards, but don’t throw hands at them. That is one area I felt Spain should improve. Good win and interesting tactical battle. I’m glad that the offensive squad won, which seems increasingly rare as we go along in soccer.

Posted by Thir13 | Report as abusive
 

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