Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spain setting standard in world soccer

The prevailing thought after watching Spain absolutely dismantle Italy, 4-0, in the Euro 2012 final Sunday seems to be this: This quality is not going to end any time soon.

Spain has now won three straight major tournaments - the 2008 and 2012 Euros and the 2010 World Cup in between. They are 16-1-2 during this tournament run, the lone defeat coming to Switzerland, 1-0, more than two years ago at the World Cup in a match in which they had 63 percent possession. Savor that one, Switzerland. They have outscored their opponents, 38-6, in that span.

The oldest player on their roster for Euro 2012 was their captain and star goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who is 31. Spain didn't have Barcelona star striker David Villa, who has scored 51 goals in 82 caps for his country, and veteran defender Carles Puyol, another Barcelona stalwart with 99 caps for his national side, because of injury. The heart of that engine room has Andres Iniesta at 28, Cesc Fabregas at 25, David Silva at 26, among many others. That is scary.

Spain played the Euro 2012 final with a 4-6-0 formation. Think about that. No strikers. None. If any area high school soccer coach unveiled a 4-6-0, especially with how ornery some parents and fans in the sport can be about formations anyway, they'd probably be run out of town. A 4-2-3-1 raises eyebrows at this level, so you can only imagine what a 4-6-0 would do.

Getting back on message, Spain can play four defenders, three midfielders and three attacking midfielders, not have arguably their best striker (no offense, Fernando Torres), play no one up top and STILL look that good in the attack? That's unstoppable.

The Brazil teams of the 60s and 70s were long before my time obviously. But right now in international soccer, there is no doubt who the best team is. And that Spanish side - as suggested by many observers already - could be the very best the sport has ever known.

If only we could get 2012 Spain and 1970 Brazil on the same pitch in their prime.

- Chris Lillstrung


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