The two Spains: the positive and the negative
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