Why I Wouldn’t Bet On Spain

I’m not a betting person, but if I had to put a £50 bet on any team to win the world cup, I certainly would not put it on Spain.

Understandably, everybody has identified Spain as one of the top contenders for World Cup glory. Spain carries the European hopes against the mighty Brazilians and the awesome Argentinians. After all, Spain are the current European champions, their form is magnificent (last 16 games: won 15, lost 1). In 2009 they equalled the record of the longest sequence of games unbeaten (35) set  by Brazil in 1996 and they also hold the record in 2009 for the longest win sequence (15).

They have a nucleus of players who make managers and fans drool. A forward line comprising Torres and David Villa, a midfield of Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, David Silva and goal keepers like Casillas and Reina. Most of their players are comfortable playing together and their tiki-taka style of play is very similar to that of Barcelona. Yes, they don’t have Messi. But that’s about the only saving grace.   Spain are so talented that you could make a decent world cup squad out of players who don’t actually make the team.

So why am I so cautious about Spain’s chances at the world cup?

This team has lost just one game in 2009. But that one game was a semi-final in the Confederations cup, which Spain lost to the US. It’s not that they lost one game, but that they lost an important game in a critical stage of the contest. It wasn’t an unlucky victory with a late goal either. The US led for much of the game through an Altidore goal in the 27th minute and Dempsey got the second in the 75th minute.

Cast your mind back to the Euro 2008, if you will, and specifically to the quarter final versus Italy. That was by no means a great Italian squad. Relying more on obduracy than offensive flair. Yet they frustrated Spain for all of 120 minutes of open play, and Spain held their nerves in the tie-break. Yet it could all have gone wrong for Spain – as a tiebreak greatly increases the impact of luck on the outcome.

My point therefore is simple – for all their riches and their cupboardful of world class players, Spain are still prone to choking at the later stages of major tournaments. After all, the Euro 2008 win must still count as the exception rather than the rule, when it comes to Spanish success in football’s top tournaments. And their shock defeat by the US in the Confederations cup suggests that the malaise may not have been completely eradicated. One should not read too much into the Confederations Cup result, but it was in South Africa, it was after the Euro 2008, and Brazil did manage to win it. Spain will need to conquer all these hurdles to get their hands on the trophy.

To be honest, there isn’t a specific team I could point to as favourites to knock Spain out. Although I can say with some conviction, it would need to be a team that is very athletic and highly disciplined. The US and Brazil are 2 teams that fit this description. No doubt at this world cup, there will be more. Germany for one, and remember they were beaten by just a single goal at the Euro 08 finals.

If Spain are like the Barcelona of the world cup, you have to think that there are managers who will seek to style their game by the Inter Milan playbook. It then depends on how well they can execute. But Spain will have to dig deep at some point in the knock out stages of the World Cup. Whether they can recreate the Euro 2008 moment or whether they will allow themselves to be washed away with the weight of many decades of underachievement remains to be seen.

One Response

  1. […] The Future Be Oranje? Posted on June 8, 2010 by apnafootball After my cynicism about Spain yesterday, Arindam asked the pertinent question – “what about the Dutch?”Fair point. After all, if there […]

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