A lot has been written lately about how, if one hopes to be discerning of nuance, one should be wary of comparing this Spanish side to Barcelona. However, rather than being a defense of Spain, these arguments advance the notion that, unlike the Furia Roja, Barcelona is actually entertaining.
I’ll admit that Barça did give Real Madrid a decent run late in La Liga this past season, pushing them to the Clásico in order really settle the title race. And I’ll grant that the azulgrana, while also being slightly one-dimensional, could also score when it needed to. It helps to have Lionel Messi around, I guess.
But this current Spanish incarnation is, somehow, and I never thought I’d say this, just so excruciatingly boring. There’s nothing wrong with playing sound tournament soccer, mind you; I’ve very recently defended England and Italy for their adherence to sensible strategy and their resolve in the face of close, grueling matches of ascending difficulty. But there’s something about Spain that sets them apart, something that lifts (or drops?) them to a level of special annoyingness.
Maybe, to be fair, it’s mostly their supporters and the surrounding aura created by commentators that get to me. Much like in the case of Phish, fans can sometimes ruin an otherwise enjoyable experience. All of this pseudo-intellectualism about “total football,” which they don’t play, “anti-football,” which is trite, and the “false nine,” which is just a bandaid for not having a creative striker (how’s that leg healing, David Villa?), is making it hard for me to distinguish between those who have never watched a game and those who have watched one or two Barcelona games, and who now openly declare that Spain is the best team in the history of the sport. Spain isn’t even the best team right now. They are, however, the most soporific.
But besides their sometimes insipid fans, Spain offers nothing in the realm of inspiration or story. That’s not always a bad thing, when most of the stories in this sport are about money, racism, corruption, or Ronaldo’s haircuts. But in this case there’s just nothing compelling about Spain winning—again—by playing keep-away. I’m sorry, football purists, but there just isn’t. Sure, penalty kicks are suspenseful, but the 120 minutes leading up to them are anything but.
So if Spain wins this thing, their third consecutive major tournament title will be fodder for countless headlines. But the stories underneath, I’m afraid, will be dreadfully dull. I’m not saying that such banality is bad for long-time Spanish fans, for the players, or even for the sport itself. But it is bad for all of us who have invested time in this tournament with the hope of seeing something extraordinary, or even just plain novel. Maybe I just find dynasties to be anathema.
If Spain wins, I will say it’s deserved. But I won’t be happy about it. If I got to watch Real Madrid (and Chelsea) shred Barcelona’s cloak of mystical invincibility, only to see it be rebuilt a month later by a team somehow even more annoying, then I’m going to be rolling my eyes and sighing for quite some time. It’s my (misanthropic) party, right?