They won my heart with their subliminal football against Germany. I've been supporting Spain, along with Brazil, throughout this World Cup, but let's face it - their display in the group matches and even the Round of 16 & the quarter-final match wasn't exactly superlative. It wasn't the kind of fluid, classy game Spain is famous for. With Fernando Torres out of form and plenty of lapses in defense, they were barely scraping by.
And then came the match against Germany. To be honest, my heart was stuck in my throat throughout the match. To the extent that I didn't want either team to score b/c that would've meant playing aggressive football and taking risks, and the last thing I wanted was for a player to get a red card. Then I realized that a goalless draw couldn't possibly be an outcome of that game, it being the semi-finals and all, and I definitely didn't want it to culminate into a penalty shoot-out.
I shouldn't have worried so much though. The Spanish were playing at a different level altogether. Their quick-passing possession-based attacking game didn't leave Germany a chance. Germany never got hold of the ball! I was astounded. The team that had routed England & Argentina just a few days ago was scared of Spain! Clearly they were thinking too much of the battering they got from Spain two years ago at the Euro Cup finals. It's amazing how psychology plays such a big part in sports. Any sport is a mind game as much as a physical one.
The Spanish that day game me the most beautiful football I've seen in a long long time. Stuff you'd generally associate with Brazil, and dare I say the current Spanish team is capable of beating an in-form Brazil team any day!
David Villa, Iker Casillas and Fernando Torres (when he's in form) generally end up walking away with all the laurels but the true heroes of the Spanish team are Xavi and Iniesta (MAN, IS HE TALENTED!). And then there are Sergio Ramos, Puyol and Pique...they work so hard! They make me almost dislike cricketers, particularly our unfit Indian cricketers who think they're doing the entire nation a favor by showing up for matches.
I hope Spain plays just as well - or even better - against the Netherlands in the finals. The Dutch are experts at fouling and play-acting (I think their players should compete for the Oscars rather than the World Footballer of the Year Award), so Spain need to be on top of their game and dominate from the start. Just like they did against Germany.
Oh, and one last thing - I'm not so much into club football but I think I'm going to get converted to a Barcelona fan pretty soon! Anyone here a Barca fan? :)
PS: I have tremendous respect for both Joachim Loew and Vicente Del Bosque. They are both excellent coaches, no doubt, but what won me over was their attitude towards each other's teams. Neither coach derided the other's team on the eve of the match. On the contrary, they praised each other's teams generously and Del Bosque extended a very warm & respectful handshake to Loew after the game. Maybe Mr Swine-Steiger should take a page or two out of his coach's book.
Here's your eye-candy for the day...
Seriously, what's not to love about football?