Simple and effective Spanish masterclass
JULY 3 — We will put our pass master onto your pass master because we have two more pass masters than you have!
That, in essence, was the Spanish game plan against Italy and for the 45 minutes that it took for Spain to retain their European crown, it was Xavi Hernandez who stuck very close to Andrea Pirlo.
It was simply a tactic of getting Xavi, who was having a quiet tournament to man mark Andrea Pirlo, who was quite simply the most influential player in the competition.
And the result was... the Italians were neutralised.
But therein lies the brilliance in the Spanish execution of this plan. While most other teams would have only shot themselves in the foot by taking one of their best passers, just to mark the best player the opponent has to offer, the Spanish, with Xabi Alonso and Andreas Iniesta, were rich with pass masters.
The advantage of having these two more pass masters helped them in controlling the midfield and thus dictated the tempo of the game.
True, the second half was filled with ample reasons for excuses for the Italians but the superiority of the Spanish was apparent, and the game was all but over in the first half itself.
They, however, could have attempted damage control by reverting to the 3-5-2 in the second half that had enabled them to get a draw in their group clash but the Italians seemed to accept defeat.
The 3-5-2 had worked earlier and it was a surprise Cesare Prandelli did not even think along those lines and that seemed like surrender.
When the Spanish can revert to man-marking then there is no disgrace in reverting to the past but somehow football coaches these days talk of innovation and it is normally associated with technology.
Technology does not win games but tactics do and hats off to the Spanish for giving us joy in the last four years from 2008-2012 as they can now declare themselves the Greatest Team in History!
The Dutch of 1974 and Brazil of 1982 will always be there as great footballing sides to never have won the World Cup but this Spanish team has eclipsed Brazil of 1970 with their beauty, precision and desire.
And not to forget good old fashioned man-to-man marking.
There is no secret formula to football as even with the genius of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, it is still a team game and tactics are recycled.
The Greeks did an Italy in 2004 (playing good old fashioned catenaccio football) but the Spanish have given back the beautiful game its credibility in the last four years.
The Team of the Tournament — Spain.
The Best Player — Andrea Pirlo.
The Find of the Tournament — Jordi Alba.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.