& The Evil Superpowers out to curtail its mission.
I am amazed at the current crop of journalists and fans who have now become ‘bored’ & disillusioned with the pure, passing game of the Spanish national side and the most-widely associated protagonists of ’tiki-taka’ football, FC Barcelona. They say these sides are killing games with their passing, putting teams and viewers to sleep with their monotonous, robotic combinations.
But I believe the reason behind this sudden negativity aimed at the beautiful game, is the negative anti-football set-up which is becoming a regular theme in the new battle for silverware. How ever many times the pundits at the European Championships compared a team with a defensive mindset to doing “a Chelsea”, and no matter how annoying it was, part of the annoyance was that they had a point.
I was publicly slated on the evening of the Champions League final for my purist beliefs about how the game should be played, & how the Blues had now ruined what could have been potentially, three great games in the lead up to, & including the Allianz arena showpiece.
Roman Abramovich has bankrolled an impressive cast list at Stamford Bridge during his tenure as owner, and no way is every purchase aimed at a negative or defensive footballing mindset. They have great players, they have firepower, and they should utilise this. You are playing in UEFA’s elite club competition and representing English football in the most prestigious final of the calendar. For that reason alone, you should give your opponents and fans the respect they deserve by at least attempting a foray upfield before the eighty minute mark.
The historical beacon of bigotry, cheating and evasion that was Rangers FC, I think deserve a slither of credit for the shocking lack of attacking intent they portrayed at Ibrox against Messi and his beautiful Barcelona bandwagon in the Champions League in 2007. Under Rijkaard, the monopolisation of possession was starting to take shape prior to the leadership of Pep Guardiola through 2008-2012, who highlighted the style & introduced it to the masses.
Walter Smith’s side were not able (that particular year anyway) to financially match the wages or go toe to toe on any level of talent or class with the Catalan giants – therefore their only option was to allow the football to be played out in front of them and for an embarrassment of possession to be forsaken in the hope their goal was not breached.
Lionel Messi was very aggressive in his post-match comments about anti-football, but we have witnessed Celtic ride their luck in the Camp Nou on occasion in a similar vein and not complained about the outcome when it was a positive one for the Hoops. What we require, is a new direction in the ongoing struggle against pure, beautiful, inventive football – and I think actually attempting to play football may, to a certain extent, work.
France were a massive disappointment during these Championships – they came into the tournament on a great run competitively, with Laurent Blanc installing a belief in the players and the country, that they could replicate the past glories of World Cup ’98 and the 2000 European Championship in Belgium & Holland. Looking through their squad list, there was an abundance of great flair players who could light up any game – and I’d lost count at the number of punters who had wagered Karim Benzema adding to his Real Madrid club total of thirty-two goals last season, by becoming the tournament’s top scorer.
Watching the quarter-final on Saturday against Spain was not only upsetting for the neutral, like myself, but bewildering for the French team it seemed who looked stuck between a rock and a hard place at times. At points during the match they looked threatening going forward, and when they put Spain under pressure, del Bosque’s side made mistakes. Then they would remember the game plan outlined at the outset of the match to contain their opponents, and have to fight the natural urge instilled in themselves to exert their fluency and offensive charms.
On the domestic front, Real Madrid managed to stop Barcelona from a fourth consecutive league win last season aided by a glut of goals from a certain Portuguese superstar. When the El Clasico came about though – the tactics shifted slightly, and it seemed their main ploy was to dismantle Barca rather than go toe to toe. Last season even though the possession statistics were heavily stacked in the Catalan sides favour, Los Blancos attacking prowess was almost identical and their daring was rewarded with a two one victory in the Camp Nou which all but finished off Guardiola’s side in the title race.
So are those now rebelling against their former love, bored with the actual tactic or frustrated with the antidote which has spawn in an aid to curb the success? The problem surfaces when teams are too scared to lose, rather than wanting to win. This in turn has produced an agenda focusing on the incessant and somehow, robotic, pass and move style modelled by Xavi & Iniesta et al, rather than further criticism which should be heaped on the men trying to eradicate the beauty of it. If more managers and teams broke the shackles of their destructive strategy, and stood toe to toe with the tiki-taka culture – the positivity could return, and the winners would be two-fold. I expect Portugal to rise to the challenge on Wednesday – I hope the magnitude of the evening does not cause them to retreat into their defensive shells.