Euro 2012: There is Nothing Wrong with Hating Spain

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As I start to type away here, I dive in knowing this is probably among the dumbest, most pointless posts in the history of this site. There probably won't even a mission statement, conclusion, analysis, joke, etc. by the time it's through.

Figure, it's worth taking more than 140 characters as allowed on Twitter to explain to people who follow me, know me, heard of me, remember my name from six years ago -- whatever -- my constant, if repetitive dislike of the Spanish National Team, despite their continued dominance at major tournaments.

Part of this is probably my cynical nature.

I'm an a-hole, a kind-hearted asshole, but an a-hole nonetheless.

More than that, I've never been a person to jump on the bandwagon for winning sports teams to look cool. As far back as fourth grade I had a disdain for my classmates who'd show up for school in fresh UNLV or Miami gear. To me, Spain is another in the long line of flavors of the month(*) people without a sporting conviction are going to latch onto, if ever fleetingly. Factor in the unchecked, overflowing praise for this current Spain team and it curdles the 'haterade' cells in my blood.

(*) Keep an eye out for how many people you'll see this summer in Barcelona and or Spain shirts. Make a note of how 'cool' these folks look.

In the grand scheme of things, methinks Spain can live with my pity comments and mean-spirited swipes at their increasingly boring, snore-inducing tika-taka play. A European Championship in 2008 and World Cup trophy in 2010, slightly, trump winning over the mind of some schmuck with a blog in Connecticut.

By the same token, when I randomly receive a text message from my brother -- not a sports fan in the least -- complaining that the Spain/France game was the most boring thing he's ever watched, well, perhaps I'm not alone out there.

Look, this is a dumb argument anyway.

Sports, for the players themselves, isn't primarily about entertaining a nuetral fan on his couch thousands of miles away. They're about winning, and Spain has found a system that makes them nearly impossible to defeat since they possess and win back the ball at an absurd rate. Look up the passing stats or the whatever new-age soccer statistical metric you want to use to make yourself look a little more erudite and it's easy to see how Spain dominates. In actuality, the secret to Spain's play is they always have so many guys in the right spot, when their opponent wins the ball, they almost seem rattled, rushing to make a quick pass to somebody who isn't there. How many times did France, specifically Franck Ribery, give away possession Saturday with a hurried touch?

Saturday in Donetsk, Ukraine, France had what, two chances all match -- Yohann Cabaye's free kick from long distance and a header over the bar by Mathieu Debuchy?

Otherwise France seemed to have accepted its fate that no matter what, they were going to die a slow death of a thousand passes by Spain, with eventually one movement from the world champs resulting in a goal. Unfortunately for France this came inside of 20 minutes on a Jordi Alba cross, headed in expertly by Xabi Alonso.

France and coach Laurent Blanc didn't even go the Bert van Marwijk route and at least go down with a fight -- and a slide tackle. Nope, France took their 2-0 beating, walked off to the locker room and probably collectively started bitching about their teammates. Never once in the final 20-odd minutes did it seem even remotely possible that Spain would score.

So Spains' run of 1-0 wins(*) in the knockout stages of tournaments came to an end thanks to Pedro drawing a late penalty, converted in stoppage time by Alonso.

(*) Which gets more style points: Spain's dull 1-0 wins or Germany's high-flying games, which allow chances for their opponent to score on the counter attack?

That's the crazy thing about Spain. The game finished 2-0, but the dominance was more like a 5-0 game. Here's what gets infuriating about Spain's, not necessarily arrogance, but cocksure approach to the game, for whatever the reason Vincente del Bosque's players don't even bother to attempt shots on goal(*), content to make one lateral pass back to the pivots of Xavi or Andres Iniesta and repeat the process until the air has been all but sucked away from the opponent -- boring us to tears in the process.

(*) You have to wonder if we'd all be genuflecting at the altar of the almighty Barcelona if its center forward wasn't the sublimely talented Argentine Lionel Messi.

Something at this particular tournament about Spain, however, reminds me of the one professional sports team I truly hate with a loathing passion like nothing else: Bill Belichick's New England Patriots.

Like the Patriots, to beat Spain you almost have to be perfect since they're both offensive juggernauts. In the case of the Patriots it's the infuriating quick release of quarterback Tom Brady finding his slot receivers for incremental short passes, which can be turned into long gainers if the runner eludes a tackle or two. Couple that with the new-school Patriots offense of tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and the opposing defense is up against, meaning your offense has to score points.

Spain isn't quite like this. In the Euro their have been moments where teams could've scored on Spain, like Ivan Rakitic's header from point blank range, yet on top of having the passing maestros its possess, Spain also has the world's best keeper in Iker Casillas rendering it almost totally unfair. Couldn't Spain be more like the Brazil teams of yesteryear, where the only presumed weakness was in goal? Sheesh.

But the point remains, to have any shot to upset Spain, you can't fluff your limited chances. 

Perhaps what makes this current 2012 Spain set-up all the more Belichickian (no, not by stealing opponent's intel) is by playing without an established "striker" against Italy and now France, Del Bosque is basically giving everyone out there a big eff-you, like when Belichick will play a wide receiver at defensive back just to show you he can. Granted, using Cesc Fabregas as a "false nine" gives tactics fetishists their biggest hard on this side of a third division game in Portugal, but to the rest of the world it reeks of arrogance. We're so good and talent we can pass the ball around enough that one of our midfielders will make a run into space, instead of clogging the middle with, ahem, Fernando Torres.

But hey, more power to Spain and Del Bosque.

If they want to keep doing what they're doing, passing the ball around, looking for that one movement while keeping the opponent at arm's length, it's their prerogative. And if they win the Euro on July 1, against either Germany, Italy or England we can hail them as one of the greatest sides in the history of soccer.

In the semifinals Spain gets Iberian rival Portugal, a country that wishes it had the phalanx of forwards Del Bosque has kept chained to its bench throughout the tournament.

Fortunately for neutrals like myself, Cristiano Ronaldo isn't the kind of player who is going to bow and kiss Spain's ring.


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