fast little loans
Donetsk, Ukraine – Some thought it sacrilege that a majority of the fans at Donetsk's Donbass Arena, indifferent to a win by either Spain or France, booed the world and European champions, who have grown increasingly more efficient at Euro 2012.
Spain, as they did at Euro 2008 and at the 2010 World Cup, base their triumphs on defence. Four years ago they conceded no goals in the quarter-finals, the semis or the final. In South Africa, they won all their matches by 1-0 from the second round on to the final.
The Spain that amazed many – and continue to do so – with their ball possession and their attack-oriented play now stand out for another concept: control.
“You have to know how to play matches, be smart, in this format with life or death games in which you know that a little detail can be definitive,” Xabi Alonso said after the 2-0 win over France in the quarter-finals Saturday.
In that game, the side coached by Vicente del Bosque anesthetized “Les Bleus,” who only shot once on Iker Casillas's goal. Spain did not have as much possession as they did in earlier matches - just 60 per cent in the first half, and 55 per cent overall, after a second half in which they even handed France the ball while they sought to counter-attack through Pedro and Fernando Torres.
“We've been quite tucked in, with long ball possessions, and they've caused no problem for us in defence,” said a satisfied Xavi Hernandez. “We're competing very well. The team is very mature, Spain already have that maturity to know how to handle matches.”
Competing well is something that Spain were historically believed to be incapable of, back in the days when they did not win titles. But those times are long gone.
Trophies came through a combination of technical ability, good players and those other concepts that Italians, Germans and Argentines were historically famous for.
And everything now serves to build on that: Spain's experience after winning decisive matches counts, and their titles intimidate rivals.
“Yes, we now notice that they have a little more respect for us than usual,” Xavi admitted.
“France practically had no clear chances. That's a good sign that the team is well positioned and that we all defend, that we help each other, that we are a team that shows solidarity, and that's how you get to semi-finals and finals. Some times you can't play excellent,” said Xavi, more of a pragmatist in the national team jersey than with Barcelona.
The truth is that the comparison between Spain and Barca is becoming untenable. And not just because they do not have Argentine striker Lionel Messi, arguably the world's best player. The combination of Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso may not be spectacular, but they tie up any opponent in midfield.
“They are the basis of the defence, they contribute major stability,” defender Sergio Ramos said of the two defensive midfielders, whose presence on the pitch together was one of the first debates of the Del Bosque era.
“When we talk pejoratively about Busquets and Xabi Alonso, I think we're getting it wrong. I think they're more attacking footballers than defensive footballers. They have enormous team spirit,” Del Bosque said of them Saturday.
If you add to that that Ramos and Gerard Pique have built a wall at the back, it explains why Spain have only conceded one goal in four matches at the Euro. And when everything else fails, as it did against Croatia, keeper Iker Casillas rises to the occasion.
“Being convincing from the defensive line up gives us major security. It's a challenge to continue to not concede goals. That's crucial from now on because any goal sends you home,” Ramos said, to stress that the tournament changes significantly from the quarter-finals on.
Spain cover their backs when they lose the ball, but they also do it when they have the ball.
“The best way to defend is by having the ball. In the end, chances will emerge, and having 60-70 per cent possession gives us great calm,” said Pique.
That is what Del Bosque seeks when he fields Cesc Fabregas as a forward: to dominate the ball and the midfield.
On the other hand, Spain only shot on goal five times against France, and they created no clear chances. The team is lacking depth, yes. But once they score, Spain players pass each other the ball time and again and end up hypnotizing their rivals.
Spain are an efficient team, even if Ukrainian fans do not like that, and even if the Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport defines it as “tactical masturbation.” – Sapa-dpa