No one has been able to write “Spain loses” when talking about a competitive match since the opening game of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a weird and stunning loss to Switzerland. That is, until now. Japan shocked the world (and by world I mean handful of people who care about olympic football) by taking out Spain in the second match in Group D on Thursday.
Yuki Otsu was the hero, netting the only goal of the affair, which fittingly took place in Hampden Park in Glasgow (the Scottish penchant for standing up to bullying empires surely must’ve rubbed off on the underdog Japanese). This win is the first that Japan has achieved over Spain in any competition at any level. I guess it’s true that there’s a first time for everything (still waiting for John Terry to apologize for something).
And before you write this result off as either trite or hyperbolized (this is olympic soccer, after all), it’s worth noting that Spain played with Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez, and Juan Mata, all members of the Euro-2012-winning side that many are calling the best team ever in the history of the sport. They also fielded Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea between the sticks, and although he proved to be a bit lanky and awkward toward the end of last season in the Prem, he’s better than the keepers most olympic (read: B-squad) teams can muster. And whatever else can be said about the match, it can be said that it counts, for something. I’m not sure what, but something. And who knows, maybe we’ll look back and remember this seemingly meaningless loss as a pivotal moment, when the aura of Spain was finally demystified.
Case in point: recall that a turning point for Real Madrid last season, at least in my estimation, wasn’t even a win but a draw with Barcelona in January, at a time when Madrid held a sizeable cushion in the league table. Simply not to lose against the rampaging Catalan side, which posed a very real threat all season, gave José Mourinho’s men a dose of confidence, which they rode like a wave on a record-setting campaign that saw them not only secure the title but beat Barça at Camp Nou in the process. Small victories—even ones that come in the form of draws—can have reverberations.
And still, I can admit that this recent stumble against Japan is only that—a bump that the Spanish war machine will almost certainly flatten out with relative ease. But frankly, at this point I’ll take anything I can get in terms of chipping away at Spain’s dominance. As you may recall (warning: more shameless plugs for previous articles in 3…2…1…) I jumped on the anti-Spain bandwagon during Euro 2012, writing that Spain is not just boring but also the Death Star of international soccer.
I know that these views are somewhat colored by my dislike of dynasties (and, perhaps more so by my annoyance with Barcelona fans in the US). But let the record show that I divulged my biases, as I don’t believe in the pyrite of objectivity. But I digress.
So maybe it’s something and maybe it’s nothing, but I don’t get to write “Spain loses” very often so I’m just going to enjoy the moment. Cool?