Monday, 2 July 2012


Few teams in the modern era have redefined the perceived tenets of their game than the Iberians

Spain hold aloft the World Cup in 2010


Pele at his deadly best in 1970

What makes a team truly great, the greatest ever? If numbers were the yardstick alone, Team Jimmy Connors - with his mind-boggling 109 tennis titles - would be sport's greatest team. But you and I know - as does good ol' Jimbo - it doesn't pass muster. Much has recently been written about the current reign of Spain's football team beset by the lack of goals. 
    There's the classic ignorant "the passes are there, but where are the goals?" hysteria but that is simplifying the argument. Statistical supplementing can make a case, but they don't save the day. Football and greatness go beyond mere goals - and you certainly can't accuse Spain of not scoring to win, the rest is debating for debating's sake. 
    If goals alone determined the greatness of a football team, all the world's great teams would belong to Playstation, not the real world. Like in any sport, a football team too needs to go beyond mere numbers to achieve true greatness - and Spain with its over-arching domination in today's ultra-competitive world of football over the past four years, has made the journey. 
    The consistency with which Spain have managed to maintain their excellent standards all these years puts them well ahead of their contemporaries in Europe and around the world. Crucially, they have set the standard for the future. 
    Any comparison with teams of the past is not important here. When was the last time something like this happened? 
    Brazil won five World Cups but they did it over a four-decade span. Still the team that is considered their greatest ever was one that did not win. 
    Does that make them any lesser, or does the basic argument not apply to the men in yellow? Like the Dutch team of the 1970s, Socrates and Zico's team only pleased; Brazil's 1982 World Cup team suffered from an acute lack of goal-scoring. 

    Spain still manages to do both - they keep the ball, they do not give it away, they keep passing, but we freeloaders want goals. Go out there and try making half-dozen passes like they do and come back a convert: Because you will see how mentally tough it is to do, each game, each tournament for the past four years. 
    Like Federer in tennis, fewer teams in the modern era have redefined the perceived tenets of their game than Spain (surely, by the same extension Barcelona because that is the philosophy they have adopted). 
    Decades from now, whenever a football team has to be held up as benchmark for excellence, impact, artistry - and success rate - the world will invoke Spain. They will talk of how the world wanted to play like Spain (and Barcelona) and how they died trying. 

    They will talk of how the team changed the way with their intricate passing game, their mind-numbing posses
sion and their opponent's happy resignation. All facile carping about lack of goals will be merely to further a foregone conclusion.

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