miércoles, 16 de junio de 2010

Por qué no ganó España?

Gracias a FT recogemos esta delicosa nota de uno de mis columnistas deportivos preferidos, Simon Kuper. Me gustó tanto el artículo que decidí postearlo. Plantea, con una prosa infinitamente mejor, algunos de los puntos que yo hacía mención en el post anterior respecto a las posibilidades de España. Además, de una excelente explicación de por qué Xavi es uno de los volantes más sobrevalorados del mundo. (Se puede ser bueno y sobrevalorado)

On a freezing Parisian night this March, Spain popped over for a friendly and tore France apart. Without particularly trying, they won 2-0. Most of the time they passed the ball around as if playing piggy-in-the-middle with the Frenchmen.

France’s striker Nicolas Anelka said afterwards that it had looked like a first-division club playing a fourth-division one, but in truth it was worse than that.

When Spain meet Switzerland in Durban on Wednesday, the best team in the world face the most boring team. Rightly, Spain are the bookmakers’ favourites to win the trophy. Nonetheless they will probably fail, because in World Cups the best team usually does.

Spain’s first problem is that everyone knows exactly how they play. They methodically weave their way down the pitch with short passes, and score. They are so confident in their style that they shun the orthodoxy of modern football, which says that the best way to score is on a fast break.

When Spain win possession, they seldom bother breaking. They just methodically weave.

The problem they posed was always clear, yet for years nobody could solve it. Since 2000 Spain have won more than 70 per cent of their matches, better than even Brazil have ever managed in a decade. Statistically they are the best team in history.

Inevitably it was José Mourinho, the coach who likes to say that he throws sugar in the other team’s fuel tank, who seems to have cracked Spain’s code. This spring his Inter Milan twice played Barcelona, a team including about half the Spanish national team. Mourinho, in his own jargon, “parked the bus” in Barcelona’s stadium: virtually his entire team lined up in moving rows at the edge of their own penalty area.

Barca were allowed to do what they liked until they reached Inter’s wall, whereupon they were crowded out.

And Mourinho had a second innovation. He had seen that Xavi – the hub for Barca as he is for Spain – is a weakness as well as a strength.

One reason Xavi’s team-mates can always get the ball to him is that he doesn’t always have to defend. That’s a rare privilege for a midfielder in modern football. Inter duly ran counter-attacks through the space that Xavi left them, and slayed Barcelona. Every team in Spain’s group will have performed an exegesis of those two games.

However, Spain’s biggest problem is the World Cup’s format. Pre-tournament, pundits tend to presume that the best team will win. France and Argentina, for instance, have been written off on the grounds that they aren’t the best team. Yet the pundits are confusing World Cups with leagues. In a league the best team does win, because a league lasts nine months. Over such a long period, random factors like one referee’s error or a ball on the post are rarely decisive. In a league, quality tells.

In contrast, a World Cup is decided in four games. Almost every big team will reach the second round. After that, whoever wins four times is the champion.

Most of the knockout games will be decided by one goal or penalties. A referee’s error or a random element, a ball hitting the post rather than the back of the net, therefore can – and often does – decide the World Cup.

Luck of the draw matters too: if either Spain or Brazil somehow fail to win their group, they could meet in the second round – thereby opening the way to a second-rank side such as France or Argentina.

If this tournament were simply about deciding who is the best side, the Spaniards could swing round Fifa’s offices and pick up the trophy now. Instead, to use an analogy chosen entirely at random, Spain will probably default.

19 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...

Muy buenos los dos articulos, Frank... espero que el ruido blanco o el arbitro o lo que sea nos juegue a favor a nosotros!

FT dijo...

Ya que estamos, sigo:

Maradona may be spared his blushes

By Simon Kuper

Published: June 17 2010 22:41 | Last updated: June 17 2010 22:41

The only time Diego Maradona grew animated in his post-match press conference on Thursday was when someone asked about his habit of kissing his players. The eyes of Argentina’s little manager bulged comically. “No, I prefer women,” he clarified. “I’m dating Veronica: she’s 31, she’s blonde, she’s beautiful.” Just to be absolutely clear, he finished with a homophobic slur.

Otherwise, it was a good day to be Maradona. His team beat South Korea 4-1 at Johannesburg’s Soccer City to become the first qualifiers for the second round. The day Maradona runs naked through Buenos Aires – a treat he has promised if Argentina win the cup – appeared that bit closer.

But it’s too early to put the naked run in the diary. Maradona’s team ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, or from Leo Messi to Jonás Gutiérrez. There is material here for an opposing coach to exploit.

As South Korea showed on Thursday, and Nigeria the previous Saturday, there’s little that opponents can do about Messi. Whenever he gets the ball within 30 metres of goal, Argentina in effect have a scoring chance. His genius enabled two of Gonzalo Higuaín’s three goals.

So the smart coach watching video of Argentina will not ask himself: “How can I stop Messi?” Instead, he’ll ask: “How can I stop Messi getting the ball near our goal?” The answer is to shut down Messi’s suppliers. In Maradona’s first-choice team they are Javier Mascherano and Juan Sebastián Verón, because the enforcers who staff Argentina’s defence are mostly too busy hurting people to get involved with passing. Verón, 35, is the first weakness the opposing coach will identify.


Verón’s performance against Nigeria strangely recalled England’s long-ago cricket captain Mike Brearley. He read cricket brilliantly but didn’t play it brilliantly. He was almost a non-playing captain, and so is Verón. In old age, the shaven-headed one plays at walking pace. If an opponent marks him – Nigeria didn’t bother – Verón lacks the pace to escape and will be out of the game. Furthermore, he and Argentina’s other midfielder, Angel di María, leave ball-winning almost entirely to Mascherano.
Good attacking midfielders such as Florent Malouda or Steven Gerrard will exploit Verón’s immobility by running into space. In a survey organised some weeks ago by two Argentine newspapers, 80 per cent of respondents opposed taking Verón to the World Cup. He was injured on Thursday but, when he returns, strong teams facing Argentina should win the midfield. That would force Messi to come back and fetch balls. Messi is much less dangerous near the halfway line.

Argentina’s other blatant weakness is Jonás Gutiérrez at right-back. “Spider Man” spent last season as a competent, non-scoring outside-left with Newcastle United in the Championship, English football’s second tier. Now he’s playing right-back in the World Cup. So far, he has looked like an outside-left from the Championship playing right-back in the World Cup.

You might deduce that Argentina had nobody else to play in that position. However, Javier Zanetti, king among fullbacks, is Argentine. Maradona hasn’t even brought Zanetti to South Africa. Having seen Gutiérrez, it’s hard to argue that this was a wise choice. Cruel critics say Maradona was animated by personal dislike of Zanetti. We’ll keep searching for another explanation, and tell you the moment we find it.

Gutiérrez, who has the long frail limbs and wispy beard of a romantic poet, contrives to appear almost constantly off-balance. Nigeria’s left-winger Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi tore him apart until Mascherano came over and clogged Obasi.

If Argentina meet France in the second round, the French outside-left Franck Ribéry could have fun.

If Gutiérrez is so exposed, Maradona might not be.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010

Vigo dijo...

Bueh, de momento la suerte también está con los españoles. Díria que la suerte en gran parte está en quién la busca, y España la suele buscar más. Todos los jugadores de la selección son grandes estrellas en sus equipos y están acostumbrados a ganar.
Por otro lado este equipo también ha demostrado ser ganador ganando la Eurocopa.

Nos pueden eliminar si tenemos un mal partido, o si en un partido igualado nos "crujen" o algún árbitro se equivoca. Pero si hay que perder es mejor hacerlo teniendo las ocasiones y la posesión del balón de tu parte.

Los jugadores quizás no estén en su mejor momento de forma, pero quizás sufriendo en cada partido aún tiene más mérito cada victoria.

Y de momento seguimos...

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