Written By: Segun Odegbami
To write about Spain at Euro 2012, one must start with Barcelona.
Some weeks ago on this page, I described Barcelona as the best football club in the world. From the scathing responses I received, many readers did not agree with me.
Barcelona impressed me very much in the past few years, win or lose. The team was playing a brand of football I had never seen before and winning.
Before I started to watch and understand the football revolution that was going on inside the Barcelona Academy at Camp Nou I often wondered what else could be introduced to the game of football that would result in a completely unique playing style and character to drastically change the way the game is played?
What could be so radically different in football tactics or philosophy to impact on a team and make it the best in the world for years? Since total football was introduced in the early 1970s by the Dutch national team nothing of that magnitude had happened again to the game until Barca came along in the middle of the last decade.
It is Barcelona that discovered and introduced the secret formula that the rest of the world has since been trying to unravel and deal with without much success. The team started to stamp its authority on every game.
Not everyone appreciated their increasingly steady and consistent performance, influence and eventual mastery of this new style of play. Until last weekend, when Spain won the European Championships for the second consecutive time, many of my close friends and compatriots in the football business had not been completely convinced about the authenticity and longevity of Barca’s unique brand of football. Now they have seen it and accept it is real.
For some years now, Barcelona and the Spanish national team have been the most entertaining sides in the world to watch. They have dominated opposition with their passing and flawless ball possession, scoring goals in ‘baskets’, covering more miles on the field than other teams, and attacking and defending in endless running with uncommon enthusiastic gusto.
In the period, Barca have won the Spanish La Liga, the Uefa Champions League and the World Club Cup, and Spain have won the European Championships and the World Cup.
It was at the final match of Euro 2012 that the defining moment came to cast all doubts aside and reveal the genius and authenticity of the philosophy encapsulated in this new playing style.
Spain versus Italy
Note that I have been mentioning Barcelona and Spain almost in the same breath. It has become difficult to separate them. Both have become exponents of the newest kind of football in the world, revealed in its full glory in the final match of Euro 2012.
Playing against Italy, a team that knows how to win championships, Spain put up its greatest display of the new global football philosophy called Tiki Taka by the Spanish media. In doing so they totally ‘destroyed’ the great Azurris, with all their mastery of defensive play, with four beautiful goals.
Before the final match, many people had described the performance of Spain as monotonous and predictable with their one-style-for-all approach against all manner of opposition. Many had, indeed, concluded that the style would be short-lived and would be rendered ineffective, particularly by either Germany or Italy.
In the end Spain played and earned the respect of the entire world. Suddenly, everyone is agreeing with me that through Euro 2012 we took a look into the future and were previewing the 2014 World Cup.
The big question now is: who can stop Spain in Brazil in 2014?