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Posted by Eduardo Alvarez on 07/03/2010

Quick impressions after a match that will undoubtedly cost me at least five years of my life…

1) Had someone told me that this Spanish team would reach the first semi-final round of their history by scrapping 1-0 wins, struggling mightily to create chances, suffering terribly to finish teams off, and owing goddess Luck a good deal of their survivorship in this tournament, I would have never believed it. This is clearly not the team that won Euro08.

Up to now, Del Bosque has decided to stick to a similar line-up to the one Aragonés used in Austria (yes, I know, except for the two defensive midfielders), but for whatever reasons (two years older, a long season, injuries), most of those who were starters back in 2008 are now pallid impressions of their old selves. It’s worked so far, but we will not beat the impressive German machine we witnessed earlier today when half of our players continuously miss four-metre passes, fail to control easy balls or can’t keep up with rivals in short run. Spain’s first half was poor beyond belief. It’s time for Del Bosque to make changes. Otherwise, Spain’s first semi-final match ever could end up as ugly as Argentina’s quarterfinal game today... or worse.

2) Casillas. First things first, we owe him this win. He followed Reina’s advice – the Liverpool keeper studies most penalty takers, knew that Cardozo preferred going to his own right and warned Iker before kickoff – and with his save kept Spain alive in the match. Had Cardozo scored, with 1-0 down this game was as good as over. His experience showed and you’ll read plenty of headlines about it tomorrow. However, I wouldn’t be totally true to what I saw today if I didn’t say that he’s still quite scared of the ball, that it takes ages for him to leave the goal and that his doubts are not helping Spain’s back four at all. And even with all that, he gave us the match in a silver tray…

3) It’s quite possible that when a team break such a long jinx, such us this semi-final curse for Spain, it has to happen in the most bizarre way possible. Arsenal beating Liverpool at home with George Graham on the bench in 1989, after 18 years of frustration? Or using a rare baseball analogy, are you familiar with the Red Sox coming from 3-0 down to beat the Yankees and then win the Finals in 2004? Those cases saw an amazing sequence of bizarre events conspiring to make something unexpected happen. I am telling you, three years ago Spain would have lost this match, believe me. Something has changed, and it’s hard to say what, but even though I am not enjoying the process, I really like the results. Maybe I’m becoming Italian?

4) How many times will we (we = worldwide football family) have to suffer an unbelievably outrageous display of refereeing ineptitude to change the way refs are selected for the final rounds of the World Cup? What is the process that leads FIFA to decide that some bloke from Guatemala, hardly a football reference as a league, should be chosen for a quarterfinals match? I know referees from top leagues also make mistakes, obviously, but are much more used to deal with stars and large crowds, and usually don’t refrain from making tough decisions such as sending off players or awarding consecutive penalty kicks to the same team. And I am saying this on behalf of both teams, who have plenty of reasons to complain about the awful job of Carlos Batres.

Thank God for David Villa, or else I’d now be writing about Al Gandhour, or that other ref from Benin… Simply outrageous.

5) Together with a couple of Champions League finals and a few Real Madrid vs. Barcelona derbies, this match ranks up there in the level of importance of top football events I have had the privilege of watching live. Keeping that in mind, I can’t believe this stadium is the best FIFA and / or South Africa can do for a quarterfinal round (believe me, it is bad. Try to get something to eat or go to the gents during halftime, visit the Media Centre or get to the surroundings by car. A complete nightmare, which makes it even worse when compared with Cape Town or Durban). I can’t believe there were whole sections of a not that big of a stadium totally empty. I can’t believe the public started a Mexican wave in the 20th minute of the first half, while the contest was as tense as it gets. I can’t believe no one chanted for the whole duration of the match (and it wasn’t only because of the vuvuzelas). I can’t believe that the couple sitting in front of me thought of getting up to order ice cream just when Cardozo was about to take the penalty kick (‘You will wait for a minute to do that, will ya’, my neighbour screamed in disgust). In summary, not the footballing experience that I expected for my baptism of quarter-finals’ victories.

6) Believe me, I am happy. I just re-read the previous five points and it sounds like something I would have written after a brutal defeat. I feel ecstatic. We’ve never gone this far. I love Villa. It’s indeed time to celebrate.

And bring on the Germans!


Posted by Javier Lokur on 07/04/2010

The game was indeed stressful and painful to both parties. Indeed there were some unfair calls on both sides, but as Mr. Blatter continues to preach, "this is football". Technology has no business here, he almost sounds like Obama preaching about the ugly side of technology.

Ed Alvarez: 20 years ago, my mom's friend had a sticker on her kitchen's fridge stating: 'TV is Evil!'.

Posted by wonderkid1987 on 07/04/2010

Ed, my congrats to your country's team on a "not so well done but hey, 1-0 is a win" sort of job. As I am not Spanish, I can't share the same feeling you are currently going through(unless my country makes a semis) but I have been following Spanish football and its NT for at least 15 years and this victory is way more important than people realise. Anyway, enjoy the victory Ed, your team deserved it (kinda).

Bring on Ze Germans...

Ed Alvarez: thanks, wonderkid! bring 'em on!

Posted by Sev on 07/04/2010

You are spot on, Senor Alvarez. Tonight certainly deserves celebration and unending "Ole's", but tomorrow Spain, as well as their supporters have to face the sobering fact that they cannot play this terribly again if they want to beat a German team that is oozing momentum, and has scored 8 goals in 2 games.

Para nada mi hermano. Pero buena suerte. A ver a ver esa fuerza roja! Ojala!

Ed Alvarez: I am feeling a tad bit more optimistic today. More on the preview, to be posted on Monday evening.

Posted by Merengón Iniéxtasis on 07/04/2010

Oé, Oé, Oé.

Ed Alvarez: Oé... Oé.... Missed you singing in Ellis Park, Merengon

Posted by Michael4USA on 07/04/2010

Vincente Del Bosque appears to be suffering from Bob Bradley syndrome. He waits until the second half to get something like his best team on the field. I pray he doesn't do that against Germany on Wednesday or it's curtains. How does Llorente essentially change the tide of the game on Monday and then get no playing time on Saturday?

Ed Alvarez: More on that on the 'How did they do' post, Michael.

Posted by newf on 07/04/2010


Whew. Thanks for a great piece. You capture the mood even 10,000 km away. Savor the victory for 5 minutes and begin to worry about the next step.

Most of the guys are not really old, but seem to play old (not just wise...old). A step slow and not willing to take it too Paraguay. Not having any enjoyment. Except Villa, who is having great fun all the time. Five of 6 and an assist on the other. He seems like the only believer out there.

It was sad to see balls to Torres that teammates thought he would get, but that were a step too far.

If Germany want to play open, can Spain do that any more?

So, what to do and will Del Bosque know what is needed.
"We just play our game our way," makes good press, but what is really happening?

Ed Alvarez: as I said, I feel more optimistic today. Germany are more physical, but should also offer more space. Let's see...

Posted by Joe on 07/04/2010

Hello Ed,

Congrats to Spain making the semis, but this quarter-finals match was indeed agony, i also watched the Germany Argentina game, and after watching Spain, I cant stop thinking tht the semis is as far as Spain will go, coz the Germans were so impressive, then i tried to make myself feel better by thinking tht this is afterall, the World Cup, so anything can happen, and i really want 2 c Spain in the final and win the WC. but for now, i think VDB and the Spain squad has plenty of homework to go through on the Germans, and the more I c Torres play, the more depressed i become, VDB need to start someone who can share the workload for Villa, coz i feel if Germany mark Villa out of the game, it will be over for Spain, and i hope a quality referee will be chosen for the semis.....fingers crossed.

Ed Alvarez: I'd stick to the 'anything can happen' bit of your comment ;)

Posted by LW on 07/04/2010

I think Del Bosque should change his tactical formation now..n start using Silva upfront for another is too risky to depends on Villa as Torres is still finding his form..i m quite worry about the match of Germany vs was not quite the same flow as i watched in EURO '08..

Ed Alvarez: they are two very different teams now, no doubt about that. Let's keep believing...

Posted by KS on 07/04/2010

FIFA should just change their slogan of "Fair Play" to "Mistakes are a part of football", then we can no longer complain about the poor performances of the referees.

Ed Alvarez: I thought Paraguay's coach was quite funny when he asked FIFA to apologise... The ref was simply horrendous...

Posted by ole ole on 07/04/2010

haha, well said. As a barca fan i am extremely proud to see a spain team make history with large share of player from barca but take nothing away from casillas. these barca and real madrid players in the spanish team shows they can not only be the fiercest rivals but also very good team mates. Nice to see them celebrating hand in hand. I wonder how much of this would last when jose mourinho's madrid try to avenge barca's dominance in the upcoming el classico. Overall, happy but not convinced. After ghana and brazil exited, i rested my hopes on spain. I would like to see them win the world cup but i feel they do not deserve it like holland or uruguay. There is only one team in this competition that possesses the telling evidence that they deserve it.that is germany.I hope spain wins WC if they are not confident enough then let germany win it because i do not want ugly teams like uruguay and holland to win would be most painful thing in my life. Viscabarca4life halamadridnowonly.

Ed Alvarez: I guess there's more painful things in life, ole ole... But I agree that, having it so close now, I'd be terrible not to get to the final...

Posted by Nino on 07/04/2010

Hahahahahaha... The comment on the icecream is hilarious... As a spaniard in the 94 USA World Cup match at Soldier Field Between Germany and Spain, I could not believe the amount of people standing up and walking right in front of me at ket points of the match to go and get HotDogs, not to mention the amount of people asking me what the "offside rule" was ! hahahaha

Ed Alvarez: i understand FIFA's interest to keep building the game around the world, but the process is just painful to us, the die hard fans...

Posted by Amanda on 07/04/2010

Hi Ed, Though I assume you'll probably write about this before the next match, I'd be curious to know what specifc changes you would like Del Bosque to make for the line-up against Germany? Villa truly is a marvel! I keep wondering what Valencia will do without him and Silva next season....

Ed Alvarez: take a look at the 'how did they do' post. To me, at least Llorente and Fabregas should make the starting eleven, and even Pedro seems like a good option.

Posted by Umar Yakubu on 07/04/2010

We will beat the Germans as long as Torres does not start!

Ed Alvarez: we'll need a bit more than that, Yakubu...

Posted by Anonymous on 07/04/2010

"I can’t believe that the couple sitting in front of me thought of getting up to order ice cream just when Cardozo was about to take the penalty kick"

lol that's hilarious man! nice piece overall.

why so harsh with casillas though? he's just probably still adapting at having a better defence in front & less action than what he's used to at madrid :D

Ed Alvarez: (searching for a comeback...)

Posted by robert alvarez on 07/05/2010

G'day from Australia Ed,
Loved your comment about Spain turning into Italy. I was thinking that myself the other day. Won't mind one little bit though if that results in Spain getting that little star on the shirt that we, the long suffering fans surely deserve. (I've been watching WCs since 1986, my heart has been broken by the exits to Belgium, Yugoslavia, Italy, the fracaso of France, and the shameful robbery against Sth Korea, that is enough, no?).

Ed Alvarez: they were asking me if I minded that the team had lost their flair to get to the semifinals. My answer: 1. They still look to score for the most part of the match, which is not what Italy would do. 2. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? WE'RE IN THE SEMIS!!

Posted by SeanP on 07/05/2010

If Spain plays like they did on Saturday Evening they may as well pack their bags. They spent more time lying around on the ground after diving from each little push..hoping to get a free kick. That won't fly in the next game.

Ed Alvarez: 100% agreed that they'll go home if they play like they did on Saturday, but not because of the diving. Every time Iniesta got the ball he was either fouled or had to avoid a vicious tackle. If the refs don't act on this, we may as well say good bye to attacking teams...

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Eduardo Álvarez has written about Spanish football for Soccernet since Euro 2008 in Austria, where he witnessed a rare Spanish victory. He'll follow the Team Formerly Known as The Armada to South Africa, and will bring you all the news and gossips from the Spanish camp.

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