Spain: Utterly Amazing; Nothing Much To Say

August 10, 2012 § 6 Comments

First published on SB NATION, 2 July 2012

This is not a piece about whether Spain are boring. There’s plenty of those around, all attempting to answer an unanswerable and largely incoherent question that’s more about personal taste and emotional reaction than it is about any fundamental truth. If you think Spain are boring, then they are; if you don’t, they’re not. And if somebody thinks they are, then saying “but they’re really good and they win loads and you’re a moron with no understanding of football and you suffer from a deluded sense of entitlement” isn’t suddenly going to make them interesting. Nor is it going to make you any friends.

But the fact that the argument was happening — and for all I know continues to do so; following medical advice, I’m not allowed to participate any more — is interesting. (I think so, anyway.) The fact that so many people on either side of the debate got themselves so wound-up about the whole thing is evidence, I think, that when it comes to this Spain there isn’t much else to say. The more important question — whether they’re actually any good — has been so comprehensively dealt with that, unless we’re all willing to break the habit of a lifetime and watch football in silence, there’s nothing else to talk about.

Are they any good? Yes. Are they the best team in Europe? Yes. Are they the best team in the world? Yes. The only places for the conversation to go are whether they’re the greatest of all time – which brings its own special kind of thundering futility — and whether we enjoy watching them play. We have to bicker about the subjective experience of watching them, because the answers to the objective questions of their quality are so obvious, and therefore mundane, that it’s hard to sustain any kind of dialogue.

“Spain are amazing!”

“That’s right!”



“Right then!”

Plenty of people tipped teams that weren’t Spain for Euro 2012. All of them — and I was one; damn you, France — did so as much in hope than expectation. It takes a conscious act of will to look beyond a team whose weakest link is Real Madrid’s right-back; who have won the last two major tournaments they played in; who haven’t conceded a knock-out goal since the late Cretaceous. As Rob Smyth puts it in the Guardian:

Spain’s miracle has been drastically to minimise the variables of knockout football and make themselves near to unbeatable

and we all knew that. Yet we still have to talk about something.

Football is often described as a game of opinions, which it isn’t. It’s a game of events. But the space between those events — everything that is football but isn’t the game itself, if you like — is filled with opinion, along with nostalgia, hope, despair, and all the other flavours of wittering that we poor desperate lonely folk use to stave off the ever-growing void in our souls. Spain, though, are so predictable, both in their excellence and in the method of that excellence, that their fixtures have become increasingly a given. We know it, they know it, and opponents, quivering behind their double-banked defences, know it too.

And that, perhaps, is what lies behind the “boring” criticism (which is, as Smyth notes, more fairly a question of whether their games are boring, rather than they themselves). It’s not just that their style is anaesthetising (though it can be), or that they prioritise control over chaos (though they do). It’s that their brilliance, however entrancing, intricate, and admirable the mechanisms, runs counter to the one great advantage of sport-as-entertainment: the uncertainty. We know the plot, and we know the ending. This isn’t a criticism of Spain, for they are virtually beyond criticism now. That is both the highest compliment possible, and maybe — for those who find them curiously lacking in visceral enchantment — the problem.



§ 6 Responses to Spain: Utterly Amazing; Nothing Much To Say

  • Cool blog mate.

    soccerstronghold All the football news,football transfers, wonderkids and football videos in one place

  • Simon says:

    I agree, Spain are a class above the rest of us!

  • M. Rosin says:

    Saw your nasty tweet about Paul McCartney. Thanks for making the world a worse place. And for the record, there is no Beatles without McCartney. He was the driving force behind the band from Revolver on. And you and your silly friends shouldn’t hate on someone you obviously know NOTHING about.

  • Georges Jean says:

    This an excellent article! Spain have defied what one might describe as not only effective- team determination, but also the quest of consistency. And, being on top of World FIFA rankings, they had exemplified to be the best of world squads. To this argument, whether one desires to be objective, Spain had won almost all the major international matches since they won the World Cup 2010; no other world teams had kept such a steady record, which could make one to consider whether they would not clinch both the Confederations Cup 2013, along with the World Cup 2014. In addition to exhibiting excellent tactics in midfield, Spain can break most defensive attacks in the first line of attack. If you conjecture that it will be easy to beat Spain, in whatever important match, then you have to reconsider your football priorities. Now, in the World Cup Qualifying 2014, Spain are yet on top of Group I, hence, they will qualify to be in the World Cup 2014, which, so far, had not been without many challenges. I am a Spain fan, for they had proven what it takes to be the best squad in world football with an unparalleled accuracy and determination in both attack and predominantly in midfield. Thus, Brazil, which I think will only get to the quarter-finals, must reckon with Germany, England, Argentina, and Italy, and likely, Spain will win the World Cup 2014.

  • Georges Jean says:

    Again, this is a great post for football aficionados! In reference to the World Cup Qualifying phase, Spain took on France whom attempted to top the Group I, but Spain came back on 3-26-13, with a fury, to regain the top position. To me, France could have won the match, weren’t for missing too many chances on goal, and so did Spain. Hence, accuracy in attacking midfield is important for any striker to put his skills to the test. And one can say Spain played a fantastic match to clunk the France squad, especially in midfield,with both offensive and defensive moves. In addition to being a fine squad, along with all the footballing qualities, which define a team, Spain had been on top of FIFA rankings, and one cannot snub this fact ;thus, France were deceived to have lost the match, a bitter pill, indeed, to swallow. Although I admire Germany’s tactics, furthermore, reaching the semi-finals 2014, will be a difficult road. And teams, such as Brazil, England, and Argentina might only get to the quarter-finals whether they do not morph on tactical points. Well, no one would say that a World Cup was easy to win, as we had seen in this tough qualifying process. To this point, both the Confederations Cup 2013 and World Cup 2014 may likely, in the reality of consistent performances, be won by the reigning champions, Spain.

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