No End in Sight for Spanish Dominance
No matter how much you try, it's hard to find a team more likely to win the 2012 European Championship than Spain. It doesn't matter that it has won the last two major competitions, and is thus theoretically unlikely to win a third successive one.
Spain's dominance on the international soccer scene is so established that it has become an inconvenient circumstance other teams just have to deal with. Nothing worth writing about. All you need to do is read the coverage of Spain's game against England on Saturday.
Instead of hearing about Spain's tactical and technical brilliance, we have been treated to a deluge of news stories covering the way in which the English honor their glorious history.
Should they wear poppies on their jerseys to commemorate Armistice Day? What does the eminent soccer commentator David Cameron have to say? Unfortunately for the media, the issue got resolved, so we can now concentrate on whether the latest edition of John Terry's rudeness merits excluding him from the squad.
The European Championship is just over the horizon, and this is what you hear about the Three Lions. Interesting stuff. I wonder if Spain will notice.
In any case, the English are already well into the habit of not winning trophies. Why stop now? But who knows. Miracles happen.
If Spain loses, it won't be a miracle, but it would be close. The amount of talent that coach Vicente Del Bosque has at his disposal is astounding. Spanish players who can't quite make the starting lineup of the national team go to England and play for leading clubs.
Liverpool's goalkeeper, Pepe Reina, is the third choice for Spain. At Liverpool, he is ably assisted by defender Jose Enrique, who has not been considered worthy of the honor to play for Spain.
At least Liverpool can take comfort because their arch-rivals, Manchester United, the world's most popular soccer team, have another non-capped Spanish player, David De Gea, as their goalkeeper.
Reina, Jose Enrique, De Gea ... Frankly, none of them are good enough at the moment. Del Bosque has made the right personnel decisions over the past three years. He has mostly left untouched the team built by Luis Aragones, and has only changed the lineup to allow some of the veterans to gracefully step aside, and to leave room for the latest graduates of F.C. Barcelona's youth setup.
F.C. Barcelona and Spain have had parallel periods of extended success. Neither of them can be outplayed in a game. Whatever the result, rarely do these teams look worse than their opponents. In the past three and a half years, Spain won the European Championship and the World Cup, while Barcelona has won an astounding 12 titles.
To be fair, Spain's golden period started first. But had it not been for the boost provided by Barcelona's success, and the club's insistence on relying on home-grown, Spanish talent, Spain would have been unable sustain its momentum.
With 10 Spain internationals on their roster, most of whom enjoy prominent roles in the team, Barcelona's success is very much a Spanish one, and every Spain victory bears the mark of Barcelona's influence. Without doubt, Barcelona provides the backbone for the national team by training players to use the appropriate style and nurturing their talent game after game.
Like two trains running on parallel tracks, Spain and Barcelona have swept away everything in front of them, and rarely stop. Spain's engines are bursting with newly released energy after decades of underachievement. The Spanish players have now buried the belief that they cannot win trophies, and that bad luck will overtake them.
No longer can Spain fairly be described as La Furia Roja. La Roja does not play with its former fury, its frustration caused by accumulated failures. Instead, with precise passes and a complete control over the game, Spain calmly picks apart its opponents.
The mighty Germans could only compete against Spain for 45 minutes at the World Cup. Ninety-three years after beating Germany in World War I, England will mark the anniversary by playing against Spain. If England fares better, this, too, will be a day to remember.