No, I am not talking about my European tour in 2012, the Euro 2012 that I am referring to is the just concluded European Football Championships, that was held in Ukraine and Poland. It was won by a team playing football on another level altogether — Spain.
Euro 2012 probably will be remembered as the platform in which Spain catapulted themselves into the pantheon of the greatest team in world football, up there with Brazil 1970. They are the first international team to win 3 consecutive grand competitions, namely Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012. Their final performance against Italy showed how devastating they could be even without a recognize striker and how the ‘tiki-taka’ that was being labelled as boring, actually produced one of the most scintillating display of total football.
Playing with a 4-6-0 tactic, leaving Fabregas as the ‘false 9’ was a masterstroke by Vicente del Bosque. He started the competition with the tactic against the same team, Italy and ended it with exactly the same tactic but a different result altogether. Credit must also go to Italy who had to play with 10 men for the last half hour. The Italians were feeling the effects of a game to far from their reach. Andrea Pirlo, who single handedly guided Italy throughout the competition could only sit back and watch in awe at the efficiency of Spain’s short passes and ball control.
I feel that this ‘tiki-taka’ style of football is the way the game is supposed to be played. Good technique on top of precise passing is what most of the successful teams relied on, except that Spain did it on another level as compared to the likes of Germany and Italy. I think the Germans are the closest team that could replicate what the Spaniards are doing and hopefully we will see more of this sort of tactics in the next big event — World Cup 2014.
Defensive teams that prefer to ‘park the bus’ failed at the competition (Greece and England), so did those who relied too much on one or two players to carry the team (Portugal and Sweden). Egoist attitude also defeated most of the French and Dutch chances at the games. It must be drilled into teams that football is essentially a team game and you need to have all 11 players involved, either through ball control or through teamwork. Hopefully, by the time the World Cup arrives, most teams would have done away with the defensive attitude and start playing attractive football.
Andrea Pirlo, up until the final game against Spain, this diminutive player, sold by AC Milan to Juventus had only lost once in all the games he played. His range of passes, from the simple side passes to long range missiles were a joy to behold for an Italian team written off by most critics at the start of the competition. His highlight? The Panenka penalty against Joe Hart.
The Italy-Germany (2-1) semi final was no doubt the best game of the competition. Joachim Low’s side was the tournament favourites but they were undone by the stubborn Italians with Balotelli and Pirlo in devastating form. Another good mention would be the Germany-Greece (4-2) game, in which Germany recovered and went ahead comfortably within 10 minutes after a Greek equaliser.
The ease in which Spain disposed off Italy in the final after coming under-fire for their boring ‘tiki-taka’ tactics just prior to the game. It shows that when the going gets tough, the Spaniards get going. If only someone could replicate the tactic into the Football Manager game that I am playing.
Team of the Tournament (4-5-1)
Buffon, Alba, Hummels, Balzaretti, Lahm, Pirlo, Ronaldo, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and Balotelli. Honourable mentions (or subs): Casillas, Gerard, Ramos, Ozil and nobody (Fabregas playing as the false nine).