E S P A Ñ A
It all boils down to this. Spain X Germany. España X Alemania! the final.
In less than 24 hours, Spain will step on the field to end a generation of misery, ridicule, 'curse' (maldición) and finally do some justification to the vast talent they had in the past and the present.
44 years since their only Championship.
24 years since the last time they were in a Final.
There is a lot of pressure on this team to wipeout decades of disappointment of a nation who always were up with the best in the world as far as talent players and technical ability is concerned. But too often they cant rise in adversity. They seem to lose against opponents who seemed mentally tougher than themselves. Or too often they get ridden with internal strife in the squad.
Things have been refreshingly different this time around in the Spanish camp. Almost none of the players who featured in those losses in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Players like Torres and Fabregas exceling outside of Spain helped in giving an added dimension to the team. Aragones stuck to his guns by not including popular players who he didnt believe as a part of his setup in Raul and Joaquin.
After a tentative start (eventhough masked by the scoreline 4-1) against Russia, they faced a tough opponent in Sweden. Villa won it for Spain on a last gasp solo run in added time. the largely 2nd team came from behind to beat Greece 2-1 to complete a perfect group record.
And their reward for sweeping group D is a QF clash with dreaded, loathed Italy - the defending world champions. Spain always believed that they play better football than the Italians who are supposed to win through their sheer will to win, physical play and gamesmanship and cheeky tactics. The Italians have a 4 World Cups and a Euro to Spains only Euro.
Italy missing Pirlo, seemed to play for penalties from the get go. They stifled the more enterprising Spanish for all of 120 minutes. Penalties. Spain for once took their penalties with aplomb and riding on the 2 saves of Iker Casillas exorcised 2 ghosts in 1 match.
1. The Italians - The Spainish havent gotten past the Italian in 88 years.
2. QF curse - The Spanish have taken on the dubious tag of QF Bottlers as they havent gotten past that stage in a major cup for the past 20 odd years.
Semifinal against a resurgent Russian team who had beaten the dutch at their own game in a scintillating display of attacking and running football in the QF. Spain never worried about Russian resurgence despite all the hype and the gungho statements that the Russian's have come of age in the span of a few matches. Sadly for the Russians all those who believed in the hype didnt include the Spanish.
The slick spanish passing ran the Russians ragged for the better part of an hour before scoring the 1st and then the 2nd and then the 3rd to put them out of the tourney. In the process they lost David Villa for the final. A big loss. One that cant be filled without changing their tactics. Spain reverted to a 4-5-1 system and will employ them same against the Germans in the final today.
This is it. Spain are ready to end the wait of 44 years today.
There is no point in talking formations and tactics. Spain is playing against itself, its history and all the disappointment of its predecessors. To be fair, this bunch has already broken through the glass ceilings which seemed insurmountable in the past.
As the old saying goes :: Finals are to be won. And none remembers who finished 2nd.
Vamos a ganar!