Is England’s win over Spain not worth celebrating?
When the final whistle was heard at Wembley on Saturday night, there was a general sense of disbelief in the entire stadium at the scoreline. England had somehow beaten world and European champions Spain, with very little possession and even fewer chances.
It was not a classical performance, in fact a day after Remembrance Day the display was quite forgettable, but at the end of the day it is the result that counts. Or does it?
Looking at many of the reactions from around the world, one would think that this victory was a hollow one – an anomaly and not the fruit of hard labour. This was by no means the 5-1 victory over Germany in Munich, it was quite the contrary.
Even before the ball was kicked, we were already discussing the vast gap between the two teams. While the difference in quality between the teams was always apparent, the treatment meted out to Fabio Capello’s boys was extremely harsh.
The Italian’s decision to play Phil Jones was seen as the worst kind of experiment against the best opposition. Without Wayne Rooney and John Terry, England’s job was probably twice as hard as it was ever going to be.
Spain are a side built in much the same fashion as the club from where most of its players come from viz. Barcelona. When Manchester United took on the Catalans at Wembley just under six months ago, Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to try and match his Spanish opponents at their game saw him come out at the wrong end of a 3-1 loss.
When Jose Mourinho tried the same tactic, it resulted in a 5-0 humiliation. Of course, Barcelona and Spain are different teams yet the module they play, their style and their overall tactics are very closely related to each other. So, when two managers considered among the greatest in the world have tried and failed, is it wise to try and defeat the Spanish by attempting to play football?
England were at home, they were at Wembley where their recent record has been mediocre at best. There is something about playing under that arch that seemingly has not sat well with the Three Lions and in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign they had much better results playing away from the historic turf.
While there is something admittedly depressing about parking the bus, if it can get you a result one cannot complain. While, Spain had the luxury of bringing on Juan Mata and Cesc Fabregas at half-time, England’s most talented midfielder in Jack Wilshere was confined to watching from home as he recovers from injury.
No wonder then that the workmanlike and industrious Scott Parker walked away with the Man of the Match award. Similarly, it was Joleon Lescott who won the most plaudits for arguably his best showing in an England shirt. With a team of as much attacking potential as Spain, it has to be your defenders and midfielders who steal the spotlight and that the English did.
And finally, one has to praise Capello too who has had to endure two years of disrespect from most around. He has been lambasted for his poor communication skills, and his decisions always seem to be the wrong ones. Almost everyone has been waiting for his replacement, and rumours of his exit before the Euro 2012 have been welcomed in most quarters.
But, this is a manager who has been one of the most decorated tacticians in recent memory. He has won titles with Milan, Roma, Juventus (contentious) and of course Real Madrid. And somehow, it is others – much lesser decorated managers who are said to be twice as better as he would ever be in the England job.
While Capello’s exit after Euro 2012 is imminent, one can learn a thing or two from the Spanish in this regard. Luis Aragones who led La Furia Roja to the European championship four years ago was also set to resign from the national set-up after that tournament. The Spanish, like England in South Africa, had fallen in the Round of 16 to unfancied France in the preceding World Cup under his reign.
One bad tournament does not make a bad manager and similarly, one victory over the world champions does not make you the favourites for the title. Yet, your first ever victory over the top-ranked nation in the world does merit a celebratory glass of wine.Tagged in: capello, england, euro 2012, spain, world cup
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