Friday, June 30, 2006

Spain underachieve...AGAIN!

France 3-1 Spain.

Once more Spain enter the World Cup as one of the favourites, once more they fall at an early stage. Going into their second round match with France, Spain were on top form and looking good, France had been playing like they were on borrowed time. However when you have a quality team, even if it's getting on in years, a good performance is only ever one game away.

France: Looked better than they have done for a long time. Henry was constantly caught offside but they looked dangerous going forward, particularly the young and exuberant Ribery. Thuram made the mistake of conceding the penalty with a silly foul but Ribery equalised with aplomb as he rounded the keeper and stroked home after a nice through ball from Viera, the ball eluding the desperate dives of Puyol and Pernia. France came out fighting at the start of the second half, Malouda's lob drawing a great save from Casillas. Viera headed in the second goal with less than 10 minutes remaining, and extra time looming. Then as Spain pushed for the equaliser Zidane found himself with the opportunity to make it 3, his forceful shot completing a happy night for the French. This sets up a quarter-final clash which will be a repeat of the 98 final, Brazil await.

Spain: Passed patiently, searching for the opening and were presented with a great chance as Pablo was felled in the box. Villa made no mistake from the spot with a perfectly taken penalty - low and hard in the botton left hand corner. It was Puyol who was to become villain as it was he who conceded the free kick from which Viera was ultimately to score. Henry was in a non menacing position chasing down the ball, possession looking likely to go the spanish way until a rash elbow from Puyol. Spain never quite looked the fast, threatening team they had done, their renowned midfield and attack not quite up to speed, despite their frenetic opening 20 minutes or so. Aragones brought on Joaquin and Garcia midway through the second period to reinvigorate his side who were looking second best, but neither of their efforts was enough, even Joaquin's shot into the side netting.

A very disappointing finish to the Spanish campaign, and Aragones picked up his only defeat at the helm of the national side since taking over after Euro 2004. Spanish sides may hold the champions league and the uefa cup, but their national team continue to flatter to deceive.

I was disappointed in the result for purely footballing reasons. I thought Spain deserved to be in the quarter final ahead of the French after the way they had played thus far, and because they are an exciting team going forward I would have looked forward more to their match-up with Brazil. It's also a bit of a shambles that the Ukraine who were hammered 4-0 by Spain progress further than their tormentors. But that's the nature of world cup footy.

It also meant that now 6 of the 8 quarter finalists are past winners, it would have been nice from my perspective if this was 5 out of 8 and Spain were still there.

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