“Glorious. Simply the best. Better than all the rest. All hail La Furia Roja. It is a privilege to watch you.”
This quote appeared in The Mirror’s recap, which was posted immediately after the conclusion of the Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy in Kiev. This sentiment beautifully sums up my vexation with the aura surrounding the Spanish side in its historic third-in-a-row tournament win. Besides the eye-roll-inducing fact that the second two “sentences” are Tina Turner lyrics, the last two are redolent of the sycophantic, self-subjugating fawning over a Spanish system which has carved out a dynasty but which has simultaneously made Spain the New England Patriots of international soccer.
Spain won convincingly and deservedly, there’s no doubt about that. Italy had their chances, but having chances and capitalizing on chances is what separates the winners from the almost-winners, or as we used to call them before the self-esteem generation, losers. No one in their right mind would sit here and write that Spain’s title was unfairly or shamefully won; even I, who thought (and still think) Spain employs a methodical (i.e. boring) approach, have defended, and will defend, any team’s right to play with the cards they’ve been dealt, and to play to advance before playing to entertain. Spain has their strategy and they execute it to near-perfection. Kudos.
But just because I defend Spain’s right to take the field with whatever strategy gets them through the night doesn’t mean I have to write that I find it enjoyable or compelling. Spain’s strategy is, in fact, just the opposite. Just like the New England Patriots of the early 2000s, they’re technically masterful chess pieces, consummate cogs in the machine as it’s drawn up on the chalkboard. They’re good at what they do. So again, hats off to them and their fans, but surely it’s easy to see why such a team would annoy almost everybody else.
One has to admit that unless one is from Boston, the New England Patriots are an easy team to root against, or even just hate. The same must be true of their soccer brethren, La Roja, for the same reasons. I can appreciate Tom Brady’s achievements while simultaneously loathing his team’s air of inevitability, their assembly-line repetitiveness, and their swarms of dynasty-du-jour fans. I can step back and acknowledge what the Patriots accomplished while also considering them to be the Death Star—the looming moon-sized battle-station that must be destroyed so that the galaxy can breathe a sigh of relief and once more enjoy a tiny sliver of freedom.
And so too with Spain: they now loom large over the sport, and they will travel to Brazil in two years as the team to beat. I can admit that fact openly, and even clap for their dominance, while also rooting that someone, anyone, destroys the Death Star, right?
Oh and on another, more personal note, the fact that Fernando Torres came on fresh and scored against a 10-men Italian side is at least one reason to find this final a bit gag-worthy, no? I mean, c’mon.