Friday, June 27, 2008

E s p a ñ a !

Spain through to final of Euro 2008

It was a masterclass, nothing less. Of passing, of finishing, of wit, of invention, of all the things that we know Spain can do well but, more than that, it was a lesson in mental strength and psychological conditioning, too, the areas in which this team were presumed to be weak. Given a tournament to win, Spanish footballers become basket cases, history teaches us that. Rationality is forgotten. To put it bluntly, their bottle goes. And having already defeated Russia 4-1 in the group stage, they now had everything to lose, going into this game. How many times have we seen Spain crack before? How many times have they looked like the team in form, the team to beat, only to disappoint, limping home to the distant sound of mocking laughter? Not this lot. They held their nerve, they held their own, even after 34 minutes when they lost David Villa, their most successful striker in this tournament, even at half-time when it was goalless and the tension was growing. They did not wilt, they did not panic. They remained confident, they passed and kept passing, their defenders kept Russia comfortably at arm’s length, and when the goals came, they came in a torrent, like the rain that fell throughout the night on Ernst Happel Stadium and, as it fell, washed away over four decades of pain for La Furia Roja.

So Germany, watch out!
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