This is not how you win championships.
Yes, when your team scores five goals in two straight games, which Spain’s 5-3 win over Croatia on Monday did the first team to make in a major tournament since Pelé’s Brazil at the 1958 World Cup, that’s good. Playing better on offense than any other team in the tournament is a clear positive. Flooding your opponent’s goal with scoring opportunities is a great way to move forward.
But only if you actually store them in all of your games. Despite posting better underlying numbers than almost everyone else in the group stages, Spain finished second in their current group standings. He failed to score against Sweden and only passed Poland, despite creating chances in those games at rates comparable to the two games in which he scored five. Spain striker Alvaro Morata has scored a big goal who turned out to be the winner against Croatia, but he also added around three new exhibits to his current performance art showcase by finding creative ways not to score. The Spanish striker is like an anti-Rube Goldberg machine, moving with perfect efficiency and natural grace through all the stages an attacker is supposed to go through before getting the end result, or discovering he s ‘was strayed half a step offside the times he put the ball into the net.
Championship teams are supposed to be effective. Championship teams are supposed to minimize their own mistakes. Championship teams aren’t supposed to throw the ball into their own goals from near the halfway line.
After two weeks of worrying about their ability to create chances, Spain suddenly found themselves struggling on the other end. The own goal was ultimately awarded to 18-year-old Spanish rising star Pedri, but there’s no denying that the lion’s share goes to goalkeeper Unai Simón. It’s an awkward bounce, close to Simón’s feet, and there’s just no view on TV that will give you a clear idea of how fast this ball is moving, but if you’re playing the goalie in a major international tournament then it’s hard to grab backpasss going to be an essential part of your job description. If you are playing for Spain this may be the most essential.
Spain would equalize their game after a bit of freaking out in the box late in the first half, but it deserved a lot more. Traffic went one way for the first 45 minutes, and the half ended tied only as Spain hit a telephone pole while backing up. His brilliant but error-prone methods of the first two matches of the group stage appeared to be back.
And yet, it could be worse. In the end, 23 different ways of not winning Euro 2020 will turn out, and few of them will be more daunting than the one the French found when they lost to Switzerland on penalties. France spent the entire tournament playing with the reduced intensity reserved for friendly matches. But after Switzerland’s opening opener, the Blues finally executed their playful streak to score three points in about 15 minutes in the second half, starting with an absurd touch from Karim Benzema and ending with the long shot. distance from Paul Pogba.
And then, with the game in hand, the World Cup champions demoted again and let the Swiss score two goals in the final 10 minutes to tie. France created the best chances in overtime, but their nonchalant transition defense – the French plan seemed to be call the joke bluff and see if N’Golo Kanté could really cover the entire surface of the planet, giving the Swiss a chance to come out and relieve some of the pressure. By the time the tiebreaker was required, the emotion and momentum seemed to have stuck with the Swiss.
The difference between Spain and France was that Spain didn’t have to fumble for its On switch after giving up its drive.
Spain, on the other hand, worked to pin the other 2018 World Cup finalists in their half. While much of the backbone of the Croatian squad in that tournament race had returned, more of them were aging out of their prime than in themselves. At 35, Luka Modric was still the most effective tool Croatia had to break the Spanish press, but his mobility (granted, after a long season) declined to such an extent that it was rare to find him. see contribute in two phases of playing at the same time. If he fell deep to help move the ball forward, he rarely had time to follow it so he could also play the sharp ball which could lead to a goal.
Spain broke through in the second half by digging on the edges of this core, especially on the Croatian full-backs, who were not part of the World Cup squad. Spaniard César Azpilicueta surprised 19-year-old left-back Joško Gvardiol who was watching the ball on the second goal. In the third, an unexpected restart after an injury caught Gvardiol drinking water and away from his position, giving Ferran Torres a free kick on the keeper.
But this game may have turned out to be a way of retaliating against Spain that doesn’t involve waiting for one of his players to bounce the ball off the post and bounce it all the way to his team’s goal. . Spain’s intensity waned late in the second half as their attackers and midfielders grew tired, and the reprieve allowed Croatia, as did Switzerland, to score twice in the final 10 minutes. Match. Basically, if Spain are not defending in the spotlight, then their defense could be vulnerable. This was not a problem in the group stages, where the teams struggled to break through the press and his own finishing woes took center stage. Croatia asked more questions of the pair of Spanish center-backs who only played 22 times for Manchester City between them last season, and only Simon’s heroism in the atonement for his blunder prevented Croatia from overtaking him.
But the difference between Spain and France was that Spain didn’t have to fumble for their On Switch after relinquishing their lead. La Roja had stumbled, she had tired, she had missed easy opportunities and made stupid mistakes. But he was trying all the time, always on purpose, always creating chances. The Spanish players played as if they had something to prove, as if their reputation was based on this game.
Which he did in many ways. This is perhaps the most surprising detail about this Spanish team: their relative lack of big names playing at big clubs. Where their golden generation once dictated the narrative of the world game, Spain is now largely a nationally rather than internationally renowned team of players, made up mostly of stars at smaller clubs and quality spinning pieces on bigger ones. Much has been said that after captain Sergio Ramos withdrew from the exam to recover from injury, the squad did not have a Real Madrid representative, but there are also only three Barcelona players in the squad: midfielder Sergio Busquets, the last remaining player. the team that won the 2010 World Cup; defender Jordi Alba, who played in the Euro 2012 victory; and Pedri, who has started all four of the Euro 2020 squad so far and is widely seen as a future star for the club and the country. (Defender Eric García will also move to Barca this summer.) In 2010, the year Spain won the World Cup, five Spanish players were named in the top 10 for the Ballon d’Or. In 2019, the last edition held before the pandemic, not a single Spanish player was in the top 30.
Getting deep into a tournament like this is a great way for Spanish players to build their reputation. Most of the last generation were underestimated heading into their Euro 2008 title race, which coincided with the start of an era where the world club game revolved around Barcelona and Real Madrid. This tournament could be the perfect opportunity for Pedri and Torres to triumph and present themselves to the world, if they manage to finish the job.
The France squad, on the other hand, was filled with players who had already made a name for themselves in the last World Cup and in the team’s race to the Euro 2016 final. France replaced the team. Spain as the world’s leading talent factory. It’s reductive to assume that a star team will play lazily, but France’s game plan of slow retirements and letting individuals show off their offensive talent one at a time seemed designed to allow for some indolence, perhaps with the ‘hypothesis that it could be deleted when really necessary. He couldn’t, not even at the first request. This is not how we win championships either. But even if you are heading for the exits, you better go out and try.
Listen to an episode of Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen below, or subscribe to the show on Podcasts Apple, Covered, Spotify, Stapler, or wherever you get your podcasts.