Great, but not yet the greatest — Tan Yo-Hinn
JULY 3 — The urge to anoint Spain as the greatest-ever national team is indeed very tempting. That is hardly surprising. Winning the 2012 European Championship with a 4-0 victory over Italy meant they became the first national team to win three consecutive major international titles, making a very compelling case for the “greatest” tag.
But Brazil’s 1970 World Cup side are making me give it more thought.
Widely regarded as the benchmark for footballing nirvana, that side contained a rich assembly of footballing gods like Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Gerson, Clodoaldo, Carlos Alberto and Rivelino that was known to reduce grown men to tears — I’ve actually witnessed one.
They were so good not many knew their backline — it’s Brito, Piazza and Everaldo, and goalkeeper Felix for those remotely interested.
Critics say the 1970 World Cup was their only major win, but the Copa America — South America’s equivalent of the Euros — was not held from 1967 to 1975.
It is hard to argue against statistics, but the fact opinions remain divided says something. It is also about the feeling. Results are not the only barometer for greatness.
Even the misses by Brazil’s 1970 side were legendary: Pele’s amazing body swerve and dummy in the semi-final against Uruguay goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, that ended with his shot just wide or his lob from the halfway line against the former Czechoslovakia. Forty-two years on, people still talk about it.
Spain’s “tiki taka” football is absolutely sublime, but it has been criticised for being tedious and overly-elaborate.
Brazil’s 1970 side also had to contend with some genuinely great teams during a footballing heyday.
En route to lifting the Jules Rimet trophy, Mario Zagallo’s men had to overcome the then-defending world champions England, an exciting Peruvian team led by Teofilo Cubillas, the uncompromising Uruguay, and Ferruccio Valcareggi’s Italy of Luigi Riva, Roberto Boninsegna, Gianni Rivera and Giacinto Facchetti.
And there was also the West German side of Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Wolfgang Overath and Gerd Muller which Brazil did not meet in Mexico but would become world champions four years’ later.
Whereas only the current incarnation of Germany under Joachim Loew have had the staying power to challenge the Spanish juggernaut over the past four years.
The Spanish side of Iker Casillas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez built by Luis Aragones and tweaked to near perfection by Vicente Del Bosque definitely belong to the pantheon of all-time greats, Uruguay (1920s), Hungary (1954), Netherlands (1974), Brazil (1982) and France (1998, 2000).
To call Spain the “greatest”, I’d say hold on first. But if they win the 2014 World Cup, the temptation to call them that may prove irresistible. — Today
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.