For a normally vibrant, garrulous nation, don’t the Spanish produce yawningly tedious football, effective though it is in terms of results?
It might be brimming with neat, intricate triangles of passes which the father of geometry, Euclid, would have applauded. But – notwithstanding the rare, mazy dribble from Iniesta or, still less, one of his team-mates – last night’s Euro 2012 semi final against Portugal was the soccer equivalent of Nitrazepam, my recommended cure for insomnia.
In fact, I’ve seen more tantalising fare dished up in my grandkid’s X-Box Pro Evolution soccer videos. And, at least the inadequates of England had viewers on the edge of their sofas occasionally.
All right, all right! I know Spain won, but how woefully so for reigning World and European champions. And they had to rely on a Russian roulette penalty shoot-out to do it.
By that time Portugal, who provided a smattering of genuine thrills in the first of the three halves – I count extra time as the third – were looking for the bus to the knackers’ yard, so fatigued were they.
Their man-mountain of a centre-back, Bruno Alves, whose spot-kick hit the woodwork and allowed Cesc Fabregas to clinch Spain’s win, was like a punch-drunk heavyweight praying to be carried from the ring. And why wasn’t the still animated Ronaldo allowed a crack?
Maybe had Portugal a striker other than the lumbering Almeida, who couldn’t hit a barn-door with a shotgun from five paces, it might have ended in tears not cheers for the metronomic Spanish.
Still, for a feisty, little nation of 10.5M people – a quarter of Spain’s population – I take my baseball cap off to the Portuguese.
Vicente Del Bosque’s side tested their goalkeeper, Rui Patricio, just once in the first 90 minutes, which underpins why Spain has scored one goal or fewer in three of their five Euro 2012 games, and they won the 2010 World Cup thanks to four consecutive 1-0 victories.
No wonder 62% of respondents in an on-line pole voted the Spanish ‘boring’.
Maybe all that matters to their coach and automatons are results.
If that were the case with Man City, Man United, Chelsea or Spurs, the terraces of the Etihad, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane would be graveyards.
So, roll on the shove-ha’penny season. At least we’re guaranteed some thrills.