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Spain's belief dominates football

02 Jul 2012 | 17:47

"They know how to play because they have come from a country where they learn how to play."

So said Vicente Del Bosque, the man that created history by being the first coach to win the UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup and UEFA European championship.

Along the way and, particularly in this tournament, he also secured the destiny of Spanish football for the foreseeable future by standing firm against the questions, being true to his nation’s long-term vision that brought it unprecedented success, and remaining steadfast in his beliefs.

Because that’s what football is, in the end. Beliefs.

‘What do you believe in?’, the Spanish might say. We know where our reference points are, what we have worked towards, where our vision of the game lies, and we stuck to it when the pressure was at its greatest.

The answer for too many, is nothing. Only the result, the latest winner, the personalities, the fortunate, but the result is so often an imposter, to borrow a line from the inimitable Xavi, that we have to look deeper.

At what Spain sought to achieve on the field, how it aimed to play, the incredible courage it takes to impose one’s game on every opponent, in every game.

That was the vision it had thirty years ago, and this wonderful array of players and a coach with the strength of character to see the journey through, has vindicated for all time the work Del Bosque speaks of above.

"They know how to play because they have come from a country where they learn how to play."

Indeed, they do, and it takes decades of diligence, education, hard work and sacrifice.

It was entirely fitting that Spain was subject to criticism throughout the tournament, though coming from the Spanish themselves it is difficult to understand having overcome 40 years of underachievement, however others around the world exposed their own belief systems through the process.

Those who see football as ping pong, up and down the field, back and forth, who would be better off putting a net at halfway and watching a game of tennis, not football.

Our game, as the Spanish have shown, is about possessing the ball, treating it with care, withholding it from the opponent and waiting for the right moment to strike, not giving it back and having to fight for it again.

Still incredible, though, that rather than castigate Spain’s opponent for an inability or unwillingness to take it on, some chose to question Spain’s approach to breaking down the constant walls it comes up against.

Barcelona has the same problem. The only team in the history of the game that must contend with a wall of defenders in every single game, with less space to pass than anyone has ever had, and yet who turn on mesmerizing performances as good as any that have ever been, are criticized for not being capable of getting through 10 Chelsea defenders.

Ten of the highest paid footballers the world has ever seen with one mission, to stop the opponent playing, and yet this is deemed acceptable, because too many lack beliefs. They see only results.

'Post hoc, ergo, propter hoc'. Chelsea won, therefore it is right.

Spain struggled at times to break down teams intent only on stopping it, necessitating a more patient approach than four years ago before its opponents gave up all pretense of ambition, and it's Spain's fault?

Spain and Barcelona have given us six years of the most sumptuous football the world has ever seen, and now it’s boring? Says who?

Only those who know not what they see, who cannot know the extraordinary quality and courage it takes to play this way, who cannot appreciate the artistry of the pass, who seek only the direct.

Perfectly fitting that Spain had to face criticism because, as Del Bosque said, success weakens.

People become tired, they want something different, the next big thing, a new high, change for change’s sake, but Spain has left them with nothing to hold onto anymore and shown them for what they are, without beliefs.

Congratulations to La Furia Roja, the greatest national team in the history of the game. You have lifted the beautiful game to new heights and that is an enduring legacy.

Also to the Azzurri, who should be congratulated for an outstanding tournament, for Andrea Pirlo’s mastery, and for trying to face Spain in the final, not running to cower like so many others.

In its own way, Italy contributed to the most emphatic exclamation mark on this era that could have been. The world’s best attack against a nation built on defence, and the game was no contest. No contest at all.

Spain and Barcelona have redefined football in the purest sense as being a game of skill and brains, and given us all hope by proving that such heights can be achieved through believing in something, and standing firm.

This is our destiny, to seek to play football with purity, with the ball, with possession, with intelligence.

Barcelona says it takes 5,600 hours of training between the ages of 10 and 24 to master the game. That’s an average of eight hours per week, 48 weeks a year over 14 years, including matches.

Yes, Australia, we have a long, long way to go.

It will take 20 to 30 years but, none can argue, as Spain has shown, that hard work pays a rich and lasting dividend.

Then perhaps, one day, we can say of Australia's own, "They know how to play because they have come from a country where they learn how to play."

About this blog


Craig Foster

As SBS’s chief football analyst, Craig provides expert opinion and unrivalled insight. He has also represented the Socceroos and played abroad. Follow @Craig_Foster on Twitter.
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