I worry about football; more than most, but not in the same way as most. I don’t really care how much Cristiano Ronaldo earns, or how adulterous John Terry is. But when I heard, during the build up to the World Cup, that in Brazil there were concerns that their team would not only not win, but ‘not win in the right way’ I knew exactly how they felt.
Football is referred to as ‘the beautiful game’ ipso facto it must be played beautifully. Which it has been during this year’s finals, but in rare instances that have become rarer as the teams that play with the grace and élan that makes football such a great spectator sport have gradually left the competition, including – arguably the two greatest footballing sides of them all – Brazil and Argentina, who were picked off by the vulcher teams of the Netherlands and Germany; sides that, with the exception of a few individuals, embrace all the opposite traits – organisation, efficiency, work-rate – that, while fundamental to any successful team, tend to strangle the life out of the game.
The quarter finals saw the Netherlands and Germany triumph over Brazil and Argentina through tenacity and tactics, and yesterday evening I had the unpleasant feeling that the same fate awaited Spain, leaving the 2010 World Cup destined to fizzle out in the grid-lock stoicism of Netherlands vs Germany.
It turned out to be an unfounded worry. Last night Spain demonstrated that they can not only play the game with panache, but that they are also wily enough to beat the Germans at their own game.
One nil doesn’t scream enrapturing battle, but it was. In that modest score lies all the nuance and high drama that makes football such a special game. The Spanish build up play—their midfield trying to find a chink in the armour of the German defence; the rapid German counter attacks when the move broke down. It was a thrilling game in which the best team came out on top; and I hope they go on to beat the Netherlands on Sunday, because through last night’s display, Spain have proved that they are not only the best team in the world, but that they also exemplify all the qualities that earned football the moniker ‘the beautiful game’.