Connect in the back of the net

Torres and Villa during Spain’s loss to the USA
(Taken from Foootball Shirts)

Two Champions league semi-finals, two defeats. The worrying aspect of the results is that both Real Madrid and Barcelona appeared to lose their nerve in the semis when the going got tough, and with the national side dominated by players from both clubs there is a chance that Spain’s golden age of international football may be coming to an end.

It is very hard to argue with the results achieved by the Spanish national team over the last few years. The start of the golden era was set in motion in 2006 when they breezed through their group at the finals only to yet again fail to achieve their true potential, losing to France in the second round. 

After their elimination, the Manager Luis Aragonés came to the decision that the team was not physical or tough enough to be able to out-muscle opponents, they therefore opted to start concentrating on monopolising the ball and thus started to employ the tiki-taka – a style they have become renowned for, characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball to stretch your opponents and enjoying long periods of possession.

Spain subsequently qualified for Euro 2008 with 28 points out of a possible 36, and were seeded 12th for the finals. They won all their games in Group D and overcame their nerves to reach the Final, where they defeated Germany 1-0 and gained their first major trophy since 1964.

Having finally proved to themselves that they are good enough to lift a trophy they set a consecutive tournament record of 15 consecutive wins and matched the mighty Brazil with a record run of 35 unbeaten games, whilst adding the title of World Champions in 2010 to their roll of honour.

Euro 2012

Taken from UEFA’s official online store

Spain were placed in qualifying Group I for the right to play in Poland and Ukraine this summer.  A 6-0 victory over Liechtenstein on 6 September 2011 assured Spain a spot at the tournament, and following their 3-1 victory over Scotland they completed their second consecutive qualifying campaign with a 100% winning record. They have been drawn to face their long time rivals Italy and contenders Croatia and Republic of Ireland in the group stages.

The International success has been built on the back of a strong showing at domestic level from the big two of Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Barca in particular playing the same style of football that has allowed the National team to prosper, and capturing the Champions League trophy, albeit with more than a little help from the world class Argentinian player Lionel Messi. 

So what is the problem with the Euro 2012 tournament nearly upon us? Chelsea and then Bayern Munich both traveled to Spain for the second leg of their Champions League semi-finals and both emerged victorious and subsequently left a lingering doubt that the style of football that Spain have adopted so successfully at International level can be broken down and defeat becomes a real possibility. 

The main problem is that with so many key players of the Spanish national team plying their trade at Barcelona and Real Madrid, the collective gloom over their respective club’s failure to dominate at club level could well lead to the old doubts re-surfacing when they all get together for the summer tournament.

Confidence and belief are key components in the makeup of a successful team, and whilst there is no doubt that Spain are justifiable favourites for Euro 2012, the swagger has surely been replaced to a certain extent by a feeling of un-certainty about their ability to dominate International football.

Defeats at club level to English and German sides and even a friendly loss against England at Wembley for the Spanish hardly raise the confidence levels when they take to the pitch to defend their European crown.

Guest post contributed by Samantha Harvey for Jackpot Party.

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