A. ‘My first job, I was in-house at a fur company, with this old pro copywriter. Greek, named Teddy. And Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is "new". Creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of... calamine lotion.’
Don Draper during his Carousel pitch for Kodak executives, last episode of Mad Men’s Season 1.
It’s hard to say that the approach to football of the current Spanish side is new, as we’ve seen plenty of sides playing a possession game since the English invented the sport – even though they themselves have never really thought of this possibility in over a century. But indeed this Spanish method felt like new back in 2007, when a certain Luis Aragonés decided that his squad, a collection of players from Valencia, Villarreal, Real Madrid and Barcelona, should play keep ball and find their two strikers as often as possible.
Against all governing trends, tiny midfielders such as Silva, Xavi, Iniesta and Marcos Senna managed that team on the pitch and controlled the pace of the game. They proved that technical skills and a shared vision of how to play could beat more physical sides such as Germany, up to then – and at some points of Euro 2012 as well – believed to be the future of football. In that sense, this team was/is indeed new, and far more than an itch.
That is just what we witnessed on Sunday night, a dominating display of possession football with the specific flavour from chef Vicente del Bosque, a patient wizard of knockout tournaments. His recipe of ball possession, seasoned with getting opponents tired and a pinch of waiting for the chance to open up the pitch with your bench, may have disappointed those who expected huge scores from Spain, but has built a level of confidence within the team that has no precedents in Spanish football history. A close friend of mine, travelling with the Spanish FA, told me on Saturday night that Spain would win, because “the players look so confident and focused that it’s unbelievable. They only speak of winning”. Hats off to the Marquis of Del Bosque.
Spain also need to thank Cesare Prandelli, who thought he had an accomplished 4-4-2 side after just four tournament matches, capable of competing face to face with the Spaniards. Spain have been playing ball possession since Aragonés decided to switch gears five years ago, so they found themselves passing at will in Kiev, making the most of their midfield advantage with their false nine, Cesc Fábregas, always giving them an extra pass, this time forwards rather than sideways. An Italian 3-5-2, just like Prandelli had used in their first encounter of the tournament, would have made things much more complicated for the Spaniards, but now that belongs to the useless ‘what if’ category.
On Sunday we watched a pivotal point in football history because of two reasons: first, a side that mostly lack the physically gifted specimens that nowadays seem to monopolise the covers of football and even fashion magazines, won the tournament outright and broke a series of records, conceding only one goal in six matches and dominating most encounters, including the final; second, their ball possession approach has become so intimidating / envied that a) most teams switched the way they usually play to compete against Spain – Italy, Croatia and France especially; and b) more importantly, Italy decided to play ball for the first time in over fifty years of catenaccio!
Spain’s approach is, to that extent, new and reconciles us with football the way it was played when we were kids, in the sense that going for the match and wanting to score one more goal feels fun, right and rewarding.
It’s undeniable that this group of Spaniards have grown into competitive beasts, and now know how to manage match results in a way they never did before against teams that close their ranks and occupy their defensive spaces well; but when their opposition give the minimum opening, Spain create and take their chances like clockwork, with ruthless precision. On Sunday night, Italy thought they could deal with this method, but quickly learned that Spain’s 'new' was no calamine lotion.
B. 'But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia. It's delicate... but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, "nostalgia" literally means, "the pain from an old wound". It's a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn't a spaceship. It's a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It's not called the Wheel. It's called a Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again... to a place where we know we are loved.'
Don Draper in his Carousel pitch for Kodak executives, last episode of Mad Men’s Season 1.
And nothing better than a Greek concept to extract consequences from this Spain v Italy refereed by a Portuguese, thus completing my dreamed PIGS final.
This almost perfect match, unprecedented by any standards – Spain have beat none other than Brazil by winning a major tournament final by a four-goal difference – can’t hide several issues the Spaniards have suffered during the tournament.
Most teams already know how to play against this Spanish team and know well the way the carousel works. Most of the media that now hail Spain as the next big thing or even as the best team in football history, were just four or five days ago talking about boredom or below-par Spanish displays, given that the Spaniards couldn’t kill off matches as easily as they did only one year ago. Their opponents had found the remedy against Spain’s successful formula.
And not only have most rivals learned the lesson – and Prandelli has probably done so the hard way – but also some of the Spanish references on the pitch are aging fast. Spain have managed to win this title without David Villa (30) and Carles Puyol (34), both of them instrumental for this side and quite likely out of the team for the 2014 WC. Xavi Hernández, in a poor tournament hidden by a splendorous couple of assists in the final match, is 32 and looks exhausted with each passing 60+ match season. The embarrassment of riches in midfield can’t hide the fact that we lack an organiser of his stature, or a finisher of Villa’s quality upfront.
The additions of great players, such as Jordi Alba, shouldn’t fool anyone: the spine of this team – Casillas, Puyol, Xavi and Villa – need real replacements, and those haven’t showed up as yet. Can Ramos occupy Puyol’s space, on and off the pitch? Could Cesc become our new Xavi, or perhaps Villa? Hard to say at this point, but the feeling, just like Iker Casillas said on Friday night, is that this group have reached ‘their last year or so of maximum production’.
Spain have earned the world’s respect to be considered candidates for any future title, but one can’t shake off the feeling that this outrageous dominance at Euro 2012 will in time become their swan song, the showcase of their success and the inflection point downwards. Del Bosque defends that this is the result of 20 years of work at all levels of Spanish football, but even that isn’t enough to guarantee these four years of continuous success. At some point, the magical spell is bound to finish, in our case whenever some of these top players decide that it’s time to go, and that time is getting imminent.
We Spaniards shall look at the goals and title celebrations from these last three tournaments like the golden memories of a wonderful spell, the way Don Draper stares at the pictures of his own marriage and family remembering a beautiful past now gone. However, the success, the glory and the feeling of vicarious accomplishment will stay with us for life.
C. ‘Good luck with your next meeting’
Duck Phillips, closing the sales pitch.
Thanks to you all for another wonderful tournament. It's been a huge pleasure, as usual. See you next season!
The highly awaited Euro 2012 final welcomes two teams who have reached the ultimate stage of the tournament through very different trajectories. Spain, overhyped before the tournament started, have disappointed many despite their already successful campaign. Their secret, now unveiled, doesn’t bring them the same easy wins and big scores of only one year ago. Their tank looks empty; their fantasy has chosen new, greener pastures. At this point, the Spaniards play out of pride and guts, trying to increase their already huge stature by winning an unprecedented third major tournament in succession.
In the opposite corner are Italy, who arrived in Poland after the country’s umpteenth corruption scandal and had to bear severe questioning from their own fans and media even before they kicked a ball. Cesare Prandelli, a tactical innovator who brought a different, more offensive approach to the traditionally defensive Squadra Azzurra, made an impressive sequence of tactical choices that first built his own players’ confidence and then allowed for further risks to be taken successfully.
But despite these conflicting trends, which should favour the Italians, for most bookmakers Spain are still the favourites, probably based on their impressive track record in knockout matches since 2008: nine clean sheets and nine rivals eliminated – two on penalty shootouts – in a row. Both sound like intimidating stats to any top level team who dare to face the Spaniards, even their bête noire; prior to the penalty shootout victory at Euro 2008, Spain had never beaten Italy at an official tournament.
Two main question marks surround the match, one for each team, and both are probably related. Given that this is Spain’s blog, let’s start with the Spaniards: the big choice is one of reputation vs physical shape, and of narrowness vs width. Will Vicente del Bosque stick to his preferred starting XI in the offensive midfield department, or will he introduce modifications to bring new blood in and open up the pitch?
On the Spanish side of things, seven players have their place guaranteed on Sunday, and those are the seven players that occupy positions closer to the Spanish goal: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Xabi Alonso and Busquets. From the middle of the pitch forwards, almost anything could happen. If Del Bosque opts for continuity, Iniesta, Xavi, Silva would start and, likely joined by Cesc Fabregas in the false nine formation. That would be the same team picked when Spain and Italy met each other in their first match of the tournament – Del Bosque openly stated that he enjoyed the way the side played that match with that tactical disposition.
If this is his choice, Del Bosque will be relying on experience and proven track record, but again playing with a very narrow side, and one that therefore puts minimal pressure on Italy’s full-backs – a similar mistake to that of Germany in the semi-final. The Italian defence have proved that they feel extremely comfortable dealing with frontal attacks for most of the tournament, so even if Del Bosque believes that seniority is a plus, opting for this formation will probably see him introducing new blood early in the second half.
At this point, it seems relevant to mention that Xavi Hernandez and David Silva look knackered, and have decreased their production progressively, as the tournament went along. Del Bosque has not once left Xavi out of his starting XI since he took over, but we all remember how Silva ‘paid for the broken plates’ after Switzerland defeated Spain in their opening match of the 2010 World Cup. In all truth, I believe that Xavi is in worse shape than Silva, but leaving him on the bench would be a huge shock. Iniesta, not at his best either, has managed to make the odd offensive play here and there after an exuberant start of the tournament, and Cesc gives the squad that extra pass that Del Bosque likes, even though we all know he will never beat an Italian centre-back to a cross from the wing.
My personal bet: Silva will be rested and Pedro will start. That way, Del Bosque would introduce some width. Pedro and Iniesta can play on either side, but I would go with Pedro on the right to compensate for Arbeloa’s offensive limitations, and because he has fresh legs. He’s also an excellent finisher and at some point should find the net, even though he’s lacked that final touch with the national team.
In the second half, depending on the score, Del Bosque can either go for a riskier offensive strategy – introducing Torres or Llorente and Navas for Xavi or a defensive midfielder – or can manage the result by getting Silva back into the side or even the more rested Mata to play keep ball for 40 minutes and infuriate the rest of Europe. Having said all this, Vicente del Bosque has shown at Euro 2012 that anything can happen when it comes to his team selection...
Which leads us to the second question mark: what will Prandelli do? He started the tournament with a very successful 3-5-2 that worked wonders against Spain, but then resorted to a diamond 4-4-2 that looked better and better with each passing match and ended up convincingly defeating Germany. My gut feeling, and this comes from Prandelli’s public statements in his scarce free time between walks to and from churches, is that he’ll go for the 3-5-2. It sounds as though he does not feel entirely confident of fighting for ball possession face to face with Spain, while his squad should be confident of repeating their formation after giving Spain a decent scare three weeks ago.
For the average fan, some duels sound mouth-watering: Balotelli vs Ramos and Pique indeed deserves its own camera for the full 90 minutes. If Pedro starts and faces Giorgio Chiellini on the same side of the pitch, we’ll see another fantastic struggle. But the match will be decided in the middle of the pitch. Just like Ramos said, “we need to deactivate Pirlo”, while the Italians are probably saying similar things about our own Alonso and Xavi.
For the first time since Spain’s golden age started, I won’t watch the final live at the stadium. I am getting tons of emails from close friends – journos and supporters alike – about their trips to Kiev. I am green with envy. I won’t sleep much on Saturday night. But frustrations aside, and regardless of the final score, I have to say that this is such a magnificent ride that I feel privileged just to support such a great group of players. Keep calm, root for your team and let’s see what happens on Sunday.
On Wednesday night, Spain reached their third consecutive major tournament final in four years after defeating an extremely competitive Portuguese squad. Given that you have probably read stupendous match summaries from Phil Ball, Andy Brassell and Roger Bennett, allow me to share with you seven random thoughts about the match, with an overarching theme: Spain are winning through guts at this point, and I am not sure of how long this can last. Actually, they only need one more match, if I am not wrong.
1) Everyone now knows how to defend Spain, or at least their current incarnation.
Throw a high line, include some winger to keep the full backs at bay – thus taking out all their width –, get your lines together and reduce spaces in midfield. It’s obvious that the Spaniards’ huge talent can find your goal at one specific time, but your life will be a lot quieter, and you can fancy your chances at the counter. The worrying thing for Spain is that Italy have already practised this once, and now get the chance to master the approach in the final, after watching Paulo Bento’s impressive interpretation of the approach. For all his tinkering with the starting eleven, Del Bosque needs to add some width from the start, width as a part of the approach, and not as a second half alternative. Navas and Pedro showed it works wonders.
2) La Roja need fresh blood off the bench asap.
Most Spanish stars looked drained v Portugal. As early as minute 15, Iniesta gave up on chasing a lazy ball that went out of bounds. Five minutes later, David Silva suddenly decided to stop running in the middle of a play and thus lost the chance to meet a sweet pass from the aforementioned Iniesta… Plenty of instances showed that key Spanish players were in saving energy mode, which paraphrasing Del Bosque could be fine if Spain were playing against Zaragoza or Mallorca, but these are the dying stages of a top level international tournament. If Spain have a line-up challenge, is how to manage their embarrassment of riches in midfield. There’s plenty of talent waiting for their chance off the bench, and physicality will be once again key in the final against the Italians.
3) Spain’s offence is actually Spain’s defence.
With nine clean sheets in knockout stages of tournaments and recurring below par offensive displays – Portugal shot more than Spain on Wednesday night, who would have thought – Spain’s overhyped offensive game actually hides a very consistent defensive strategy, that starts with ball possession and plenty of low risk passing, and involves losing the ball far from their goal and a cohesive way of getting their lines together. Not only that, but the team rested with the ball and eventually got the Portuguese exhausted despite their two extra days of rest, just like we saw in extra time. All those 1-0 wins dating back from WC10 are not a coincidence. Spain are simply not that powerful upfront, but really consistent in preventing rivals from getting close to their goal.
4) Vicente del Bosque is quickly morphing from competent man manager into self-appointed master tactician.
This is obviously not good news. When Del Bosque took over from Aragonés, he focused on managing the egos on the dressing room as well as on preserving the fantastic internal atmosphere. His only tactical modifications were a second defensive midfielder – understandable for one-month tournaments to which most players arrive in lame physical condition – and some pure wingers to stretch out the pitch, both sensible decisions.
However, since this tournament started, Del Bosque has shown plenty of concerning signs that lead us to believe that he now feels an urging need to leave his tactical mark on the team, at times reaching stupefying levels of originality. His continuous tinkering with the starting eleven reached its climax – or maybe not, we still do have a final v Italy to play – against Portugal with the shocking inclusion of Alvaro Negredo as a starter. The Sevillista had played one minute during the whole tournament, and is hardly the type of player that excels with playmakers such as David Silva and Andrés Iniesta behind him. Negredo, a pure striker if there ever was one, needs service from the wings and preferably high crosses to shine, hardly what he would get from Spain’s starting XI last evening. Why he was picked ahead of Torres, Llorente or Fabregas is really tough to understand.
After his experiment failed – out of place Negredo participated of one decent play in 55 minutes – Del Bosque resorted to a clear imitation of Barcelona’s false nine formation, with Pedro, Fabregas and Navas up front. That opened things up for Spain considerably, especially in extra time, but Fabregas is no Messi neither a pure striker, and at least four times he couldn’t beat the physically intimidating Portuguese centre-backs when Navas, Pedro or Alba tried to find him inside the box. The main flaw of this Barcelona copycat system is that in Guardiola’s tactical design, Messi floats to either aim for the goal or find Pedro and Alexis (scorers by their own right), while the Spanish design has Fabregas as the main target of the crosses, rather than the creator of the offensive plays in the final third.
Spain could play a lot simpler and a lot more effectively. Back to basics, please, don Vicente.
5) Del Bosque has managed to keep the winning mentality of this group of players intact.
The growing array of teams that look able to disrupt the Spaniards’ offensive flow is undeniable, but Del Bosque has tried to find new solutions always within their own style and identity, which is probably the single biggest reason why the team have kept on winning. In a calculated consequence of their so far a bit puzzling selection policy, Del Bosque has also fostered their internal competitiveness: anyone can play at any given time, therefore most players try to be ready – very clear in Spain’s training sessions.
6) Sergio ‘Crazy Horse’ Ramos is already a legend, for both the right and the wrong reasons.
His 120 minutes were as perfect as you will ever see from a centre-back: positioning, defending, tackling, passing… even his fouls were perfectly timed. And then came his penalty kick. ‘Our coach knows I’m a little bit crazy, so I guess he knew I’d try something risky’. After his recent Champions League miss, a safe shoot seemed in order. His choice was one of pure insanity, regardless of the result. Like a handful of players, he appears to thrive in situations in which the line between resounding success and abject failure is extremely fine. I still don’t know whether to like him or detest him… Actually, right now I like him a lot.
7) CR7 failed to shine in the perfect scenario.
His team was the underdog, so he didn’t have the usual amount of pressure. His teammates played an almost perfect match, finding him in several occasions and providing him with enough chances to score – in several set pieces or in open play, especially that last minute pass from Meireles, which he finished in an almost bureaucratic way. He faced several Barcelona players, indeed a source of extra motivation. He looks at the top of his form. How come he did not finish Spain off? How come? Unfair, unfair…
Final’s preview to be published on Saturday, and I promise a non-reverse jinx match analysis. Stay tuned.
Before you start reading this Spain v Portugal preview, please make sure that you click here in order to be able to interpret this article in its whole context.
Well, have you clicked yet? Can we start?
If you’re interested in this extremely challenging match-up for Spain, it’s very likely that you’ve already read my colleague Tom’s blog, listing a set of relevant motives as to why Portugal will defeat Spain on Wednesday. Not only do I agree with him, but I also want to elaborate on a few additional reasons that, from a Spain/Real Madrid supporter perspective, lead me to strongly believe that result of this match can't be anything other than a Portuguese victory.
1) CR7 has finally embraced his inner, evil self, with devastating consequences for his rivals.
During his final season with Manchester United and his first two years with Real Madrid, Ronaldo presented a confusing public persona. Well aware of the importance of political correctness and public relations, he struggled to balance his obvious natural tendency to behave like the evil character of a suspense movie – remember his trick to send Rooney off during the 2006 World Cup? – and the fact that he wanted to become an international icon. We all know that evil is not the most usual route to global stardom.
But something has changed this season. Ever since Ronaldo made those outrageous statements back in September 2011 – “People boo me because I’m good-looking, rich, and a great footballer. That's why they envy me” – we’ve seen a more authentic version of the Portuguese star. He’s given up on political correctness, and he now screams at his team-mates shamelessly on the pitch; his goal celebrations display more arrogance than ever; he allows himself to make derogatory and inaccurate comments about arch-rival Leo Messi; and in general he seems totally content with being hated by 99.9% of his rivals’ fan bases.
The problem for Spain? This change in attitude brought Cristiano his most accomplished season so far, both at the club level – he won La Liga, defeating Messi in the process – and with his national team. Portugal have never seen Ronaldo play at the level he showed against Netherlands and Czech Republic. Now that he’s decided to accept himself the way he really is, he looks unstoppable.
2) The overhyped prevalence of Possession Football over Defence + Counter has shifted this season.
After four years in which first Spain and then Barcelona – yes, Aragones’ Spain started this trend, for those with a weak memory – became the reference for how to win consistently through the monopoly of ball possession, this season the paradigm has changed. The previously unbeatable Barcelona have lost ground to their aggressive, more direct rivals both in Spain – where Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid won the title defeating the Catalans at their own pitch – and in Europe, with a similar victory for the determined Chelskis led by Didier Drogba.
It only makes sense that this noticeable modification of the footballing trends has its reflection on international football. Portugal, who have three Real Madrid players in their starting XI including the aforementioned CR7, look like the perfect candidates to put an end to Spain’s four-year world domination. Their defensive discipline, midfield combativeness and lightning quick counter-attack sound like the perfect recipe to defeat Spain. If they had Drogba as their left back, this would be a no contest.
3) Spain have reached their ‘over’ phase, and it all should be downhill from here.
Every civilisation and cultural movement has a moment of splendour, its apex, in which everything seems to work perfectly. It happened with the Greeks, the Romans, Gothic architecture, rap music and even the financial markets. But, at some point, its main decision-makers get lost in their own arrogance and begin to betray the principles that took them there.
This is exactly what has happened with Spain and Vicente del Bosque. The Spaniards have been giving clear signs of this Rococo phase – if you allow me to use the Gothic architecture parallel – since 2012 started and David Villa got injured. Now ball possession is all that matters, as they at times forget about the opposition’s goal, totally absorbed by three-metre passes that don’t get them anywhere.
If we had already seen signs of this clear decline during the Euro 2012 classification phase, this final stage in Poland and the Ukraine has been paradigmatic, starting with the shocking 4-6-0 formation for which scoring seems like an annoying formality that shouldn’t even be a part of the rules. Iniesta and Alba keep passing the ball to each other without moving one centimetre, as though they would get points for each correct pass completion, regardless of their position on the pitch.
These worrying symptoms clearly precede a terminal disease. Like many civilisations, the Spanish approach to football is decomposing fast, victim of the very skills that took it to the top of the world. On Wednesday evening, Del Bosque will become Spain's own Nero.
PS. Your views on this are highly valued. Use the comments section to share your opinion.
Being one of the teams to beat in world football surely has its disadvantages: most rivals know the way you play in excruciating detail and quickly copy whatever strategy seems to work against you. This has been the case with World champions Spain in recent months, as different defensive variations that tend to harden the effectiveness of their passing game – although very rarely their monopoly of ball possession – have been implemented by various opponents, taking away a part of the tactical and positioning weapons the Spaniards have built over these last few years.
But continued success also has its advantages, and we saw an obvious one last evening, when Spain defeated France for a place in the semi-finals of Euro 2012: it’s called respect. When presented with the challenge of facing one of the world’s top sides, most coaches feel tempted to alter their usual gameplan and introduce modifications into their line-ups and formation, eventually overreacting or making their sides unrecognisable.
France’s boss Laurent Blanc decided to surprise Spain – and probably his own fans as well – with a severely altered starting XI, with two main changes from the group stages: two right backs - Mathieu Debuchy and Anthony Reveillere – aiming to contain Spain’s left side – Jordi Alba and Andrés Iniesta – and Florent Malouda in the place of Samir Nasri, playing an obscure central midfield role rather than threatening Spain’s right-hand side as one would have thought when the line-up was announced.
Blanc’s ultra-defensive plan left Spain with the bulk of the possession, which is hardly news, but mainly intended to act on two of Spain’s major threats: first, most of the Spanish build-up play starts on the left, while Arbeloa’s side of the pitch becomes a secondary, crossfield option – when not an afterthought. Second, with the false nine approach, many of Spain’s plays finish in some short of central link-up combination, therefore clogging the middle – something most teams now do against the Spaniards – makes a lot of sense, at least on paper.
The fact that, without Nasri, France’s attack became almost decapitated, fully dependent on some spark of genius from Franck Ribery, didn’t seem to bother Blanc. And in the mother of all ironies, his team lost the match in an attack that contained all the elements Blanc wanted to avoid with his ‘respectful’ starting XI.
In the 19th minute, Alba broke free on the left after his marker Debuchy lost his footing, and found Xabi Alonso totally unmarked – untracked by… Malouda! – in the middle of the box. The Real Madrid player headed home and France’s whole gameplan went down the drain.
Focusing on the Spanish side of things, Del Bosque had started with his preferred false nine formation and Cesc Fabregas up front, after a whole week of tests and experiments of which only the second half cameo of Pedro Rodriguez became useful. However, the Spaniards looked like a much improved version of their recent selves, with plenty of movement and forward runs from the midfield, and a wider positioning of Silva and Iniesta.
In his 100th match for the national team, Xabi Alonso became the poster boy of Spain’s recovered dynamism, not only because of his first half goal and second half penalty kick, but also due to his constant participation in most build up plays, appearing even more often than Xavi Hernandez, a rare event when both start for Spain. However, he’s at this point Spain’s 2nd top scorer since Del Bosque took over (14 goals, levelled with Silva), so there must be something to all this two DM thing…
The second half, almost eventless, didn’t even change when both managers decided to switch formations. Blanc’s late substitutions, Nasri and Mendez, failed to make an impact on the match, while Del Bosque’s comeback to a real striker formation – Fernando Torres, ineffective again and wasteful with possession – almost made him look right in his defence of the false nine. Pity we haven’t seen much of Negredo and even less of Fernando Llorente.
Pedro Rodriguez and Santiago Cazorla, Del Bosque’s additional modifications, combined in the very last minute to win a penalty kick and finish France off. However, almost nothing of interest had happened during the previous 44 minutes. Spain were content to play keep ball and wait for France to take risks, but the French’s huge respect, one would almost say fear, for this Spanish national team prevented them from properly attacking Casillas' goal. France’s lack of combativeness, shocking at times, shows that sometimes being the favourite can be an excellent thing.
Yet another impressive stat from the Spaniards: after this match, they have held their opponents scoreless for eight consecutive knockout matches and two periods of extra time, 780 minutes in total. But there’s one last obstacle between them and the final, Portugal and a certain CR7. More on that tomorrow.
Well, France it is. The real knockout stages of the tournament start on Thursday, but Spain will have to wait until Saturday to, according to Del Bosque, reacquaint themselves with their best game. “The fact that a draw against Croatia was a good result for us didn’t help, we lost focus and freshness”, he said after the Spaniards’ tough victory in Gdansk.
At first sight, the precedents against our northern neighbours could deceive some shallow analysis: out of 30 matches played since 1922, Spain have won 13, drawn 6 and lost 11, including a authoritative 2-0 win in Paris a couple of years ago. However, when we select the official matches, France have won five of six, a Euro96 1-1 draw being the only ‘positive’ result for the Spaniards. To make the point clearer, Spain have never defeated the French in any official tournament.
I do remember three of those losses quite vividly. First, Spain’s defeat in the final of Euro84 – yes, I am that old. That Spanish team, a cohesive but not very talented unit, made the most of their limited skills and reached the tournament final, only to witness Arconada’s blunder in horror (by the way, what a bogus call). The goalie’s error after an otherwise almost perfect competition cost Spain the title, and unfairly taints his legacy to this day. The Basque was an extraordinary goalkeeper indeed.
The second of those losses takes us to another Spanish icon that never succeeded with the national team. At Euro 2000, with France leading 2-1, Raúl missed a last-minute penalty that would have sent the match into extra-time. Mendieta, the usual penalty taker, had been replaced ten minutes earlier and watched the whole thing from the bench. France would go on to win the tournament, led by Zinedine Zidane at his footballing apex.
Finally, France also defeated Spain back in WC06, in what was my first ever live WC match. In a beautiful but frustrating night in Hannover, the French proved they knew how to compete better than the Spaniards, and made the most of Spain’s naivety to reach the quarter-finals. Spain took an early lead, but weren’t able to manage the match, just like Luis Aragonés himself admitted afterwards. Ribery, Zidane and Henry took care of matters and ended up reaching the final of the tournament.
But that is now history; Zidane has retired and Spain need to look forward. The current managing team know France better than other European sides, given that Blanc’s Bleus will compete with Spain as early as October for a spot in same qualifying group for WC14. Toni Grande, Del Bosque’s right hand, had already been scrutinizing the French before this Euro started, so at least Spain know who they’ll be facing on Saturday.
Before the tournament started, France seemed like a decent dark horse to put some cash on. With Germany, Holland and Spain getting most of the attention from media, fans and gamblers, France offered great value. At least on paper, any team with a great pair of forwards such as Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, competent creative support from Samir Nasri and Yohan Cabaye, a fantastic goalie in Hugo Lloris and a consistent back four with two attacking fullbacks – Debuchy and Clichy – and two strong centre-backs – Mexes and Valencia’s Rami – could rightfully aspire to win the whole thing, or at least reach the semi-finals.
Not much of that has materialised so far. Ribery and Benzema remain scoreless after three matches, defensive midfielders Alou Diarra and Yann M’Vila have shown their limitations to deliver the ball to their forwards in optimal conditions, and the trigger-happy fullbacks presented opponents with some defensive clumsiness more often than expected. France has shown three faces so far: cautious against England, ambitious vs the Ukraine and apathetic vs Sweden. It has been enough to reach the knockout stages, but now they’ll need to improve in order to defeat the World Champions.
On the Spanish front, things look calm after Tuesday’s press conference. Del Bosque, again the balanced seaman in the midst of the storm, decided to give fans and journos some context, and reminded us all that, up to 2008, Spain couldn’t compete with the top sides. ‘Now the other countries celebrate like crazy when they make it to the quarter-finals, and our boys quickly leave for the dressing room, focused and business-like’.
Yes, the expectations have changed, but the Spanish habit of finding points to criticise even in their most successful representatives hasn’t. Most of us can’t shake off the feeling that the Marquis of Del Bosque could do better with the talent at his disposal, but his well-mannered counter – ‘This is a Euro, not a 38-match league. You can’t play both competitions in the same manner’ – sounds sensible in perspective.
His press conference had the effect Del Bosque intended: most of the press now look on board with the team and the coach, although, as you can imagine, we’re just on ‘false nine’ line-up away from another national crisis. And talking about line-ups, my contacts in the Ukraine keep talking about a 4-2-3-1 with Torres up front once again. In any case, we’ll have more data on that as more training sessions happen. Stay tuned.
Spain reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 after a hard-fought, and at some moments quite uncertain, victory over Croatia in Gdansk. Before kick-off, many suspected that both teams would peacefully reach an entente cordiale – a.k.a. 2-2 draw – that would see the two of them through leaving Italy out, but 90 intense minutes proved that Spaniards and Croatians wanted to get to the next stage in the most honourable way possible.
The match showcased Spain’s current difficulties to deliver on their hyped promise of fast-pace, high-scoring passing game, especially when the Spaniards face teams who possess a well-organised defence and a smart counter-attacking unit. Del Bosque’s tactical alternatives haven’t brought what most expected out of the World Champions, and his choices start to sound either excessively conservative at times, or plain desperate in others.
Against the belief of certain pundits – and that would be me – Del Bosque started with what is currently his most attacking unit, a 4-2-3-1 with Fernando Torres leading the line and getting service from Xavi, Iniesta and Silva. Xabi Alonso and Busquets took care of the defensive midfield roles, while the usual back four of Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos and Alba protected Casillas. Croatia’s gameplan was also clear: sit in their own half of the pitch, occupying well most spaces and pressing the ball in a very intelligent way.
For instance, Arbeloa was allowed plenty of space on the right-hand side of the field, while Alba didn’t enjoy this same freedom on the left, with Vida constantly breathing down his neck. The Croatians had done their homework, the defensive trade-offs between more or less threatening players becoming obvious from the start of the game.
Except for five minutes between the 20th and the 25th, during which the Spaniards took three consecutive shots on target, the first half went exactly the way the Croatians wanted: Spain kept passing the ball from one side of the pitch to the opposite, failing to get Torres involved and looking quite harmless in the final third.
One of the main inefficiencies of Del Bosque’s starting eleven lies in his choice of attacking midfielders. Both Iniesta (right footed on the left hand side) and Silva (left footed on the right hand side… or pretty much anywhere, but the right hand side) prefer to roam inside, therefore unless Spain’s full-backs keep going up and down, the pitch becomes terribly narrow. The fact that the squad clearly do not trust Arbeloa to go forward with the ball and ignore him in most of their build up plays makes this width challenge even more significant for Spain’s attacking game.
If that wasn’t enough, we already know that Del Bosque refuses to give up on his choice of two defensive midfielders, therefore he misses that additional forward to liaise with Iniesta, Silva and Xavi. The result of all this became blatant during this first half: Spain became an extremely predictable team for a consistent defence who is content to sit back and wait, such as the patient, disciplined Croatians. Congest the middle of the pitch and Spain suffer mightily to create.
Back to the match: right after those five magical minutes went by, Ramos tackled Mandzukic a tad bit late – and a tad bit brutally as well – inside the box, but the referee waved play on and Spain, shocked by the realisation that one single goal would send them home, decided to take things easy for the rest of the first half. Croatia relaxed and kept their defensive structure intact, only using three players to counter attack. The first half finished with an apprehensive sensation among the Spaniards, who were feeling the weight of high expectations over their shoulders.
Once the second half started and Cassano headed home in the Italy – Ireland match (being on the receiving end of a headed goal by Talentino off a set piece probably tells you how poor the Singing Boys in Green have been this Euro 2012), Spain and Croatia knew it was time to wake up. Iniesta and Silva decided to take the match on their hands, but once again were betrayed by their recurring obsession to walk into the opposition’s goal with the ball. In the next few minutes, both teams had half-chances at the counter, as the fans finally got into the game.
Then, as usual, it was time for Iker’s trademark save: Spain’s #1 parried away a powerful, but too centred header from Rakitic. At this point it was apparent that Spain had lost control over the game, and even a bit of their own composure. Del Bosque decided to resort to the false 9 formation replacing Torres with Jesus Navas, a puzzling decision given that, at least on paper, Spain’s saviour last evening isn’t someone who usually scores from through balls, but rather someone who would prefer to cross to a striker who wasn’t there.
The following twenty minutes of the match became insufferable for Spaniards on and off the pitch. Croatia fancied their chances at the counter, and managed to shoot on goal every time they passed the midfield line, led by an omnipresent Modric who was getting great help from Srna, Vukojevic and Pranjic / Perisic. Spain’s overdose of midfielders reached funny heights: in one specific play Iniesta, the recently introduced Cesc, Xavi and Xabi were running the same route at the same time, and no one seemed to know how to go to the open space.
Just when the match looked bound to finish tragically for Spain, like many pre-2008 tournament games, Bilic went for the jugular: striker Eduardo replaced Vujokevic, and just like that, Croatia disappeared. In those last nine minutes, Spain enjoyed plenty of space and their best chances of the match, and eventually scored when Navas achieved Iniesta’s & Silva’s wet dream and walked with the Tango12 into Pletikosa’s goal. We need to mention that seconds earlier the Croatians had had his second fair penalty appeal of the match ignored by the ref.
Del Bosque still surprised us with another puzzling substitution before the match finished: striker Negredo joined the side and Xavi went to the bench, therefore Spain started and ended the game with a real striker, and spent the most important minutes without one. Go figure.
We shall have plenty of time to discuss Del Bosque’s and Spain’s performance over the next few days. The most important thing, classification, has been achieved and the Spaniards deserve to rest and work on their game until their quarterfinals game. That said, their performances vs Italy and Croatia present us with more questions than answers.
Let me leave you with some random thoughts:
1. Mr Stark, the German referee, is one of those judges who believe no one should get carded in the first 20 minutes. He avoided that first card twice after two quite late tackles, but once the first 20 min mark passed, he showed a yellow to Corluka, who had dared to spoke to him. And let’s just not talk about those two penalty-kick appeals. What a match…
2. After an exhilarant classification phase, Spain’s tactical options suddenly seem not enough to win it all. Slow, predictable and narrow shouldn’t be fair adjectives to describe the current World Champions, but they indeed are at this point.
3. That sky blue uniform just doesn’t look right on Spain. The jersey reminds of Luis Maria Arconada’s uniforms back in the eighties… and he was a goalkeeper.
4. Fernando Llorente looks fully fit and is training magnificently, according to three different Spanish journalists in Poland. Start with Llorente (better striker in the pure sense of the word) and finish with Torres (more impactful in open spaces) would make too much sense.
5. Sergio Ramos’ new haircut makes him look like Val Kilmer in Top Secret. Or should I say Nick Rivers?
Welcome to the knockout stages of Euro12! No, I’m not getting carried away by Spain’s 4-0 thrashing of the proud & singing Irish – by the way, I’m starting to believe that they only make the effort to classify for these tournaments for their fans to sing before a wider audience…
In these type of competitions, and unless you’ve won your first two matches and the remaining results have gone your way, you usually need a positive result in the last game of the group stage or else you’re done. Knockout stages indeed. Spain find themselves in this exact situation: a defeat against the quite competent Croatians could send the current World Champions home, assuming Italy beat the Singing Boys in Green, which sounds like a more than plausible possibility.
For this do or die match against Croatia, some questions about Spain’s starting line-up remain unanswered, and most have to do with what goes through the head of the national team’s manager, Vicente del Bosque. False nine? Pure striker? Rest yellow-carded players? Play with only one defensive midfielder?
Before I tackle those questions with Sergio Ramosesque enthusiasm, we need to understand the quiet man from Salamanca a bit better, given that some of his reactions and comments during this Euro12 started have surprised more than a few. Wasn’t this a calm, composed, methodical manager, keen to play offensively and open to listen to the rest of the world’s opinions?
Based on years watching the 1st Marquis of Del Bosque coach his teams, either with Real Madrid or Spain, we can make three statements about this victorious, but often misunderstood manager:
1) You need to have a simple set of tactical options to succeed: back in the late seventies / early eighties, Del Bosque played for Real Madrid under a set of managers – Miljan Miljanic and Vujadin Boskov, for instance – that taught him the importance of having a short, pre-defined array of tactical options and players to apply, rather than improvise depending on who tonight’s rival is.
For Del Bosque, the ideal situation includes three and only three formations: a) one to start the match: a steady group of 12/13 players that monopolise most of the playing time in more or less the same tactical disposition – the classic team that kids learn to recite by heart; b) one when you trail and need to comeback: more risks and one or two players to change your team’s pace coming off the bench; c) one when you have a large lead: tests younger players and more adventurous formations.
Even if options b) and c) do exist, Del Bosque would be happy playing 95% of the time with option a). His school of thought defends that when a starting XI play enough time together, it creates a series of automatic moves offensive and defensively that differentiate the team and put them in a different level of synchronisation. For instance, I can still remember Real Madrid’s most frequent starting XI under Del Bosque: always a 4-2-3-1 with names that evolved over the seasons, but that were pretty much the same within each of those seasons.
Obviously those three formations should be applied differently if you manage a club than if you manage a national team in a tournament like Euro12. In the latter case, you can use your a) formation against tough rivals in the group phase or in the knockout stages (if you get there), and the b) formation against a weaker rival in your group. If you’ve followed me thus far, you can probably guess that at this point I believe that Del Bosque’s a) formation is the false nine one, whereas the pure striker has sadly become his b).
This is quite surprising, having in mind that he had not tested this approach for more than half an hour during Euro’s qualifying stage, and that, according to Cesc, they hadn’t trained in that tactical disposition before kickoff of their debut against Italy. However, and judging by Del Bosque’s public statements, it looks as though his choice has been made, and we’ll see plenty of minutes without a real striker… at least on Monday’s match.
2) You have to stick to your guns and be loyal to your ideas. Changing every five minutes won’t get you anywhere. The good thing about this? You get continuity – an obvious corollary to the previous point. The bad thing? At times you may sound quite stubborn, just like we’ve witnessed these last few days.
You all remember WC10, when most of the media insisted on playing with one DM only. Nothing happened. Similar events occurred with one or other player during his tenure as head coach of Real Madrid, with the same lack of results. If Del Bosque decides that the approach is one, it’ll be hard for him to change.
3) Manners matter, regardless of who you’re dealing with. Even if that ‘who’ is Jose Mourinho. As a player, Vicente del Bosque grew in a version of Real Madrid that few would recognise today, despite the current president’s efforts to link his style of command and leadership to that of Santiago Bernabeu. On and off the pitch behaviour was key not only to play, but more importantly to secure a place in the club. ‘Cuando pierde, da la mano’ – when defeated, shakes hands – one of the verses of Real Madrid’s hymn, is a sign of their identity.
Del Bosque belongs to a generation of players that later would become coaches and that took this low profile, well-mannered approach to the teams they managed. This doesn’t exclude to answer firmly to critics, but always with a huge sense of respect for your rivals, and of course never arguing with others through the media. The Marquis of Del Bosque that we saw on Monday and Tuesday sending messages to Mourinho and Aragonés in his public statements was simply unrecognisable to me, and we saw his more usual, composed behaviour the following days – ‘I am not going to defend myself criticising others’, which he stated on Thursday, perfectly defines his views on this. He probably isn’t proud of those two almost reckless days for his own standards, and I bet we won’t see him like that again, even if Spain got eliminated and he bears the weight of the critics. It’s just not his style.
He therefore looks for people who behave like this. You will never hear his right hand Toni Grande pulling a Vilanova or a Karanka in the media, low-profile is the rule. In a related decision, Roberto Soldado lost his spot not because he’s slower or less accurate than Álvaro Negredo, but because he gets carded regularly and also kept arguing with his coach Unai Emery at the tail end of the season, and those things count from Del Bosque’s point of view.
This same rationale lies behind his decision of rejecting Perez’s prize for his career with Real Madrid: manners do matter, and what happened with Florentino in the past came down to a question of poor manners from the President. Once you lose Del Bosque because you broke some of the unwritten rules of ethical behaviour, you never win him back again.
Now that Del Bosque has just signed an extension until 2014, it’s good to keep all this in mind. Mark my words: Spain will play without a real striker on Monday against Croatia. Let’s hope it works out.
Due to reasons now irrelevant, Spain v Ireland caught me in Sigüenza, 140km away from Madrid. I hadn’t been here in ages, but it’s worth the trip. Fantastic architecture, amazing views from the top of the village’s castle and impressive sightings wherever you go.
I needed a bar to watch the match, and found one with a fantastic TV screen close to the XII century cathedral. As soon as I sat down I felt it wasn’t the right place: rather than locals screaming like possessed souls and doing all the crazy stuff countryside people do when the national team play, the attendance, mainly foreigners visiting the village, looked composed, almost bored.
Incidentally, I was the only one wearing Spain’s official jersey – number 9, Fernando Torres, three-days old, bought under the pragmatic philosophy of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’.
And thus the match started. Del Bosque made two tactical modifications to face the proud Irish: first, Torres started replacing Cesc Fabregas, which you and I already knew. Second, both full-backs played much closer to Given’s goal than they had done against Italy. Both modifications approved by this scribe and his foreign mates, by the way.
Ireland shot first, in a brave effort from the unexpected Simon Cox just as the match started, but it wasn’t going to be their evening. After only four minutes, Fernando Torres took advantage of Dunne’s slow reaction after a successful tackle, stole the ball, drove past Ward and unleashed an impressive right-footed shot giving Shay Given no chance. Just like against Croatia, the Irish had fallen behind at the very beginning of the match. I jumped off my seat and screamed while I pointed at the back of my jersey, getting little to no recognition from the rest of the audience.
Spain then applied their usual recipe: overdose of ball possession, which at times becomes a bit pointless, such as when Iniesta and Alba pass the ball to each other five consecutive times without either of them moving one millimetre. However, the Spaniards’ rapid pace often generated chances to score, which they kept wasting for the remaining of the first half.
Ireland’s naïve defending included decisions such as man-marking David Silva with their left back. If you have watched Silva play with Spain, you probably know that he NEVER stays on the wing, therefore Ireland’s left flank became a autobahn for Arbeloa, who shot three times on target and looked much better than he did vs Italy.
During the rest of the first half, the squad looked for Torres constantly, trying to get him involved. Xavi stood out in this department, passing the ball to our #9 even when he wasn’t expecting it. Torres’ contributions to Spain’s offensive game have to do with his ability to run and create space, rather than his passing skills or his decision making with the ball on his feet, and that became especially clear this evening.
The second half started, and yet again Ireland conceded in the early stages of it. Silva scored Spain’s second with a really soft shot, almost a pass to Given’s net. Ireland’s keeper couldn’t see the ball until it was too late, as three players swarmed Silva without being able to dispossess him, obstructing Given’s sight.
From that moment on, it was all downhill for Spain. Trap ordered his men to step forward, and Ireland’s back four started to play almost in the middle of the pitch, which eased Spain’s counters. The Spaniards kept squandering chances, although I should mention one terrific save from Given after Xavi’s shot seemed bound to go in.
Del Bosque decided to take Xabi Alonso out (yellow) and brought Javi Martinez in. A couple of minutes later Ireland made their 15th mistake starting a play from the back and Silva left Torres in front of Given. More awkwardly than me and my foreign mates expected, Fernando found the net for the second time in the match, which gained him an almost immediate substitution. Torres left the pitch like a hero, and a very serious, almost angry Cesc joined the match.
Back to the strikerless formation, Spain again looked like they could use a real striker. With Ireland’s defence almost falling to pieces, the Spaniards lacked a target to feed with through balls, which became even more frustrating with Del Bosque’s last substitution. Santiago Cazorla replaced Iniesta, when myself, the waiter and the Dutch gentlemen in the table next to mine were asking for Navas to counter in a faster way.
Ireland’s naivety reached shocking levels when Cesc scored Spain’s fourth. I can’t remember any top-level team conceding a goal like that off a corner kick. Fábregas celebration, something along the lines of ‘I am mad because I should play and all of you keep asking for a real striker’ was fun to watch. Don’t take it personal, Cesc, you are a fine player. We only need a real striker, that’s all.
The final minutes became a memorable party in the stands. All 22,000 Irish kept chanting nonstop, while the 6,000 Spaniards mimicked the Irish’s chants or sung their own, depending on the melody.
A quick summary of the highs and the lows of this match:
+ Spain recovered their passing rhythm. Silva, Iniesta and Xavi were involved in every single play.
+ Fernando Torres scored twice. Great news. It’s always good to have a striker who defences respect.
+ Both fullbacks participated more and better than in Spain’s debut. They are key, whether Del Bosque wants to play with one striker or with none.
- Torres’ decision making is poor 80% of the times he touches the ball. That said, if he scores the other 20% like today, I am fine with this.
- Del Bosque seems determined not to use Negredo or Llorente. What is wrong with them? Didn’t any of them deserve at least 10 minutes today?
- Sounds flabbergasting to say this after having scored four, but Spain look hesitant in front of the goal. When you need 22 shots on target to score four times, scoring does look like a problem, especially because it’s rare to take more than six or seven shots on goal on any given match against top-level opposition.
During tournaments days between matches go by slowly, especially when your team didn’t win their first game and your customarily humble and balanced manager shows acute and worrying symptoms of Mourinhitis. This unusual disease, transmitted by a rare species of Portuguese fly, converts its subjects into bitter, ill-tempered creatures, instilling a siege attitude into them, as though the whole world were conspiring against their interests.
Spain’s debut didn’t reach the levels of brilliance most of us Spaniards expected, which would have been just fine, especially because the squad kept their tournament options open by earning that final draw. The reason why most Spaniards felt a respectable level of frustration after those 90 entertaining minutes finished has to do with one of our favourite national pastimes, improvisation. We, natives of the Kingdom of Spain, definitely prefer to improvise rather than planning, but hate it when someone else acts that same way. We didn’t like del Bosque to change his usual approach at the very last minute, and we found it preposterous that he hadn’t tested the false-nine formation before his/our players stepped on that seriously damaged pitch in Gdansk. Paradoxically, most of us would have pulled one of those last-minute tricks had we been in his place.
On Monday and Tuesday, Del Bosque and his players had to answer endless questions regarding the manager’s arguable lack of planning and the unclear rationale behind his new tactical structure. The usually quiet man from Salamanca didn’t behave as such, sending plenty of messages to those who dared to question his change of approach, either in person, like two Spanish football writers, or through the media, like certain top-team manager born in Setúbal, normally quite reluctant to hear other colleagues give their opinions on his white-dressed team.
Del Bosque’s explanations sounded as defensive as they could possibly sound. ‘We know much better than anyone else what is best for this team’ and ‘I would do exactly the same thing’ not only are uncharacteristically grumpy for Del Bosque, but also represent a complete lack of self-criticism after his untested experiment brought little to no results.
Thank God that Mourinhitis goes away after two nights of sound sleep and warm food. Del Bosque had a much better interaction with my journo colleagues on Wednesday morning, and avoided to make further comments on his critics – ‘I won’t criticise anyone just to defend my own position’. He can also rejoice over a dazzling performance by Fernando Torres on Tuesday’s training session, so one suspects that adding one thing – Del Bosque’s recovery of his own self – to another – his stubbornness with Torres, a key part of his own self – we can safely say that Spain’s starting XI on Thursday won’t bring us more unexpected cameos nor players in false positions. Therefore Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Piqué, Alba; Alonso, Busquets; Iniesta, Xavi, Silva; Torres should start against Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland.
Just in case you hadn’t realized yet, Spain need a win from this match almost as much as Ireland do. Another draw or a loss would leave Spain in a terrible position for their third match, desperately requiring to defeat Croatia and then wait for the result of the match between Italy and Ireland to confirm or deny the passport towards the Ukraine and the knockout stages.
Ireland are hardly arguing about false nines, after an uncharacteristic first match of the tournament. The Boys in Green conceded two goals from set pieces, which shouldn’t happen again on Thursday, and had tough luck with the ref, but were in general outplayed and well beaten by the Croatians. Offensively, they barely created something of value, while their defence looked rattled at times. A terrible start to each half – Croatia scored in the first five minutes of each half – and Shay Given’s performance didn’t help either.
For the Irish, the only way is up, as they can’t possibly play any worse against Spain that they did in their first match. Official stats show that Ireland haven’t defeated the Spaniards after six matches in European Competitions, but most of us Spaniards still remember well our last meeting with the Boys in Green during the final stages of a major tournament, back in WC02. The game, as tough as they get, ended in a penalty shootout in which Saint Iker kept Spain in the tournament for one more round. From that starting XI, only Iker repeats – Xavi was on the bench –, while among the Irish the eternal Robbie Keane also played in 2002.
Again, La Roja have no room for error against the Irish. Here’s hope that Del Bosque comes back to his usual composed and methodical self, and forgets about tactical innovations for which the squad haven’t got the necessary pieces. We want tiki-taka, we want strikers and we want it all fast.