From Iceland — Are Spain Boring?

Are Spain Boring?

Published July 9, 2010

Are Spain Boring?
Spain have won every game in the knockout phase 1-0, scoring their single goal in the second half. Once they had the goal, they spent most of their time playing keepaway, passing the ball around without threatening too much, killing the game. That’s the basic narrative of the “Spain are boring” partisans. The other side will say that Spain are playing mesmerizing, complex, deliberate football, always seeking the advantage and trying to score from the very first minute. Both these things are true.
The ideal game of football supplies beauty and drama in equal measure. You want hypnotic play, a close game, lots of events taking place, and something important on the line. Any World Cup knockout game is more consequential than pretty much every other sporting event you can name, and the final is the most momentous two hours of sport in the world. I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic here. Spain have supplied beautiful play galore, so they’ve held up to their end of the bargain, so to speak. Their game against Paraguay was quite eventful, certainly, though no one has called it a true classic. But you want drama. You want lead changes, last minute heroics and individuals supplying breathtaking moments of skill and intelligence. You want to sit on the edge of your seat, holding your breath as something wondrous and unanticipated unfolds. Spain haven’t delivered that. Sure, David Villa has scored some stunning goals and Iniesta, Xavi et al have strung together some amazing passes, but there hasn’t been anything otherworldly about them, like they were two years ago when they won the European Championships.
So, are they boring? Well, when the opposition doesn’t put up much of a fight, like Portugal and Germany, whether it is because of they were scared of the Spaniards or whether they just didn’t have the skill necessary to stand up to them, matches tend to be boring. When Spain have dominated they haven’t really had to work very hard for their victories. In the one game they lost, against Switzerland, the Swiss scored their goal on the break. The Spanish have worked diligently to close down that possibility, managing, for example, to hold the Germans to just one clear chance all game. The shock of their first game loss seems to have convinced the Spanish to never overcommit, making sure that they don’t get caught out in man-on-man situations. In other words, they try to keep drama to a minimum. Beauty is plenty, but we spectators crave drama, we crave that high that the unexpected brings.
My answer to the titular question is: the Spanish want to win easily, which is boring, but when they have to work for it, they bring enough beauty to make anything they do a joy. Let’s hope the Dutch give them a proper fight. To be honest I’m not a big supporter of either team and I’ll be watching with a fairly unpartisan crowd. All I’m hoping for is drama galore. The Dutch have supplied plenty of that in their last two matches, so here’s hoping they deliver again. The Spanish will take care of the beauty.

Photo by mitsurinho.

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