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Euro 2008: Led By a Strong Man, Spain Triumphs

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Yeah runnin’ down a dream that never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream
.”
-Tom Petty

"Franco who?"
-Luis Aragones

When we measure a team’s title victory we have to take into consideration the entire tournament in question, and at Euro 2008, Spain was the most decisive side between June 7 and June 29. The championship was, at long last, theirs after a decisive 1-0 win over Germany.

The last victory for Spain – indeed the only victory at the senior level – was in 1964. Moreover, it had been 24 years since Spain was in a position to win a title, only to fall to a splendid French team 2-0 in 1984. A tournament that saw present-day UEFA president Michel Platini score a remarkable nine goals in five games.

Despite the long drought, Spain is not without some successes. Spain did manage to win a couple of UEFA U-21 titles and are the defending Futsal champions – for whatever that’s worth.

To what can Spain’s Euro 2008 victory be attributed?

For my money it all leads to one man: coach Luis Arogones.

Luis Aragones’ ability to manage not only on a technical level but on a psychological level as well, should have reminded people of Marcello Lippi’s brilliant adjustments and substitutions that were integral to the Azzurri winning the World Cup in 2006.

Aragones was no less impressive. It all started when he left Raul – an iconic soccer figure in Spain – off the team. Then, he proceeded to keep one of the world’s best midfielders in Cesc Fabregas on the bench for a couple of games. He also was not afraid to substitute Fernando Torres when he needed to.

Some may argue that it’s easy to manage a bench when you have depth. On the other hand, it can be tricky in manipulating a bench filled with world-class talent.

When all was said and done, this was a coach who had the pulse of his team down pat. 

Aragones fostered a team spirit rarely seen with Spanish teams. In the process, he added a whole new dimension to Spanish soccer culture by demanding his team play as a unit.

And we all know how difficult it is to get players of Latin extract (French, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian) to follow rules. Latins are not as deferent to authority as their northern neighbours are.

Interestingly, much like Lippi before him, Aragones bows out on top (but not without a blemish on his record following his racist remarks in 2004 towards Thierry Henry) albeit for different reasons. He will be heading to Turkey to coach Fenerbache next season. While his team leaves a legacy, he leaves big shoes to fill.

The game itself was a decent affair with Spain pretty much in control the whole time. The only goal came off the foot of Fernando Torres who beat a rather awkward Phillip Lahm to the ball, and subsequently chipped the ball over German keep Jens Lehmann into the corner of the net.

The other aspect of Spain’s game that will surely be overlooked is the defensive work of Puyol and Ramos. Coming into the tournament there were questions regarding age and reliability. By the time it ended, those questions were laid to rest as both players excelled in all games contested.

And who was the key player for Spain? David Villa? Not a bad choice, but for my money it was Marcos Senna. Inserted as a defensive midfielder within an intriguing 4-1-4-1 formation, Senna was simply an outstanding and consistent workhorse during the tournament.

And so Spain has chased down its dream. Now fans must hope they can build on this and keep the momentum going in the future. 

Note: It was quite a scene to watch Michael Ballack come up short again in a major tournament. Prior to Germany’s loss to Spain, Ballack came close twice in Champions League with Bayern Leverkusen and Chelsea.

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About Alessandro Nicolo

  • http://www.myspace.com/x15 Douglas Mays

    Yes, it as a good match. Spain played a very nice game. They did a great job of maintaining control. Sometimes they caught the great German team completely offgaurd. Give some credit to the German goalkeeper (and a German defender for playing his near post properly on one play in the second half) for keeping the score being run up against them.

    Let me just say that Spain played ‘attractive’ futbol.

    hhhmmm…and I should say the LA/DC match televised on ABC before the Spain/Germany match was not too bad for USA league soccer. That match was played attractively enuf to keep my interest. It is good to see the USA playing a smarter, more sophisticated game.

    Anyway, I love the beautiful sport. Uh, OK, look out for Sounders FC of the MLS in 2009!

    best,
    DM

  • http://www.myspace.com/x15 Douglas Mays

    btw, Alessandro, I didn’t mean to divert the points behind your article. Good information about the why and how behind the success of Spain’s victory.

    all I know is that they played a very nice match.

    best,
    DM

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    As an Englishman, it’s always nice to watch Germany get their comeuppance! Spain showed them up as – we’ve seen this so often before – a flawed team once again riding their luck to squeak into the final of a major competition.

    Spain throughly deserved their win and as you say, Douglas, it could and should have been three or four – although I wouldn’t give Lehmann and his defence as much credit as you. After the first 20 minutes or so – in which, as I observed on another thread while watching the game, the Germans appeared to be packing the penalty area with the entire back four of every Bundesliga team – the Spanish were running rings around them and it was often a sloppy or mishit final pass that kept the score down.

    I’m not sure about Alessandro’s comment on Latin discipline either. The one thing Italian football is best known for is tactical discipline. Then again, that might be a relic of the Lombard heritage…!

  • Alessandro

    Doc,

    Therein lies the contradiction of Italian culture/society/soccer! You’re right, Italian soccer is predicated on tactical and organizational discipline.

    There is a strong Germanic root to its soccer – with the occasional Latin flair when needed.

    But as a general rule, Latins are a little more, shall we say, suspect of authority figures. Perhaps in Northern Italy it’s less prevalent because if its Germanic/Romano heritage as you point out.

    Just as a side issue, Spain won this particular game on defense. Senna, Ramos and Puyol were the workhorses. They matched Germany’s tenacity foot for foot. At least, that’s what I saw.

    I must admit, I wonder if Germany would have gotten this far had they been in a tougher group – say, like Group C? Nonetheless, I NEVER take credit away from a runner-up or champion. Ever. If they are there then more often than not they deserve.

    That’s just me.

  • Alessandro

    Douglas, it’s all good. As you said, time to support North American soccer. Sounders here we come!

  • http://www.myspace.com/x15 Douglas Mays

    Dr. Dreadful. Yeah, true, some of the finishing on both sides could have been better. We could have been looking at a score of 5-2 or something…

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    4-2 would have been good…

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    LOL @ #7…

    Interestingly, England won the World Cup in June 1966 and I was born that August, since when England have been unremittingly crap. Coincidence? Or yet more proof that the universe hates me?

  • Alessandro

    I thought it was a reference to ’66. Wasn’t sure.

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