Monday, July 7, 2008


After enduring an identity crisis for years, the proverbial ugly duckling has finally matured into a fine handsome swan. Class upstaged tradition last weekend when a vintage Spanish side shed off the unenviable tag of Europe’s perennial underachiever of yesteryears to become rulers of the continent. Befittingly, the long overdue accomplishment by a team that has so often flirted with success took forty four long years to come by.

While many had expected the final showdown to be a closely contested affair, with all due respect to the Germans, it has to be said that Spain won it hands down. Regardless of the solitary goal win, which wasn’t a true reflection of the happenings on the field of play, Spain was by far the better team.

German coach, Joachim Loew, overstretched his tactical approach in the hope that at some point the Spaniards would falter or make one grave mistake. That chance almost fell right on their laps in the opening exchanges when the otherwise blameless Sergio Ramos’ short pass right outside the box was intercepted by the lurking Miroslav Klose. But strangely, Klose somehow didn’t have enough poise to mete out the punishment and Spain breathed again.

Luis Aragones on his part opted for creativity, an attribute that quite evidently endeared his team to most of the neutrals over the period of the tournament. In the absence of eventual golden boot winner, David Villa, he handed out Cesc Fabregas a place in the starting lineup ostensibly to add more width to his already illustrious midfield. The move certainly paid off handsomely as the German midfield dynamo Michael Ballack was outfoxed while wide men Bastian Schweinsteger and Lukas Podolsky were critically starved of meaningful ball supply.

Paradoxically, in a game that the small-bodied Spaniards looked overawed by the German’s raw brawn it took the speed, strength and great anticipation of Fernando Torres to break the German resistance. Jens Lehman’s abilities had been abit suspect through out the tournament but the moment Phillip Lahm was beaten for pace it would have taken something really special for him to deny Torres from that sort of position.

Thereafter the Germans didn’t impress for a moment. Their set pieces, which they have often employed as a valuable tramp card, were horrible to say the very least. Not even their dreaded long range shots could do the trick, evidently so because the Spaniard simply didn’t give them any spaces within shooting range.

In the final analysis, while we can’t deny the fact that the best team ultimately won the tournament, its still in order to factor in yet another valid argument into the mix. For all their past failures and near misses there is one school of thought that has that Spain’s main undoing on the big stage has been as a result of regional loyalty that has superseded the national interest for the game. Its been said in the past that too much animosity within the Spanish football as a result of cultural, historical and political difference between the country’s various regions is to blame for the adverse counter effects on the national team’s ambitions.

But all is well that ends well. It is without any doubt that the image of Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas lifting the pristine Henri Delaunay trophy will remain etched in the memories of all Spanish fans for many years to come.

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