Spains triumph on Sunday evening in Austria was a win for football in a year that’s seen attacking play rewarded and will hopefully push the cautious approach even further back in the tactics of successfully teams.
Chelsea’s cautious, and in truth boring, approach had threatened to take the entertainment value out of a sport that has become big business first and entertainment almost as an after thought. The same style, a 4-5-1 disguised as a 4-3-3, was readily being used in international football, where the pressure to succeed as brought about a low risk style of football amongst the big teams.
With Manchester United following up back to back English Premier League titles with this seasons Champions League, paving the way for the likes of Arsenal to persevere with beautiful football and not revert to the less aesthetic type played out by most teams, Chelsea ended up trophy less, losing in the final of the League Cup, the Champions League, and the league. Their owner, Abromovich, has long called for attacking football, knowing that it will improve the brand name, increase their popularity around the world, and make them value for money. Mourinho, who delivered silverware, including back to back titles, was unable to deliver this, and Grant spoke about it, but if anything made them more boring. United were not only the top scorers, but also had the best defense.
Arsene Wenger has come under pressure to drop his passing, attacking, beautiful football philosophy, as Arsenal have been regarded as the best team to watch, but ended another season with little to show for it. Wenger will not bow to this pressure and why should he? He only needs look at United’s season, and now at Spain in the international arena as proof that he can have his cake and eat it.
Spain passed their way to the Euro 2008 title. They out scored everyone, conceded only 2 goals, indeed Casillas made only 10 saves in 5 games, and remained unbeaten throughout. Spain along with Holland were the best team to watch. Holland perhaps played the Arsenal role, in that they were the best team to watch, but were perhaps a player or two short of winning the tournament, and paid for having one bad day in their stay in Austria and Switzerland.
The Spanish had the quality, talent and technique that they have always had, yet this time were able to come away with the trophy and not fall away in a feeble tail of disappointment, as has been the case over the last 40 years. This time they believed. Believed in themselves and their play. They knew they did not have to be cautious, they had the players to create and take chances. And this they did.
The Spanish squad is young enough to be kept together for the World Cup in two years time and will take with them the confidence gained this last month. They are no longer the nearly men. They have silver wear to back up their talent and provided the new manager, whomever that will be, sticks to the passing, attacking style that Spain employed at Euro 2008, they could just be lifting the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
Attacking football must be rewarded with success to keep the boring stuff at bay. Spain and Manchester United are leading the way. Arsenal, Barcelona, Holland and Portugal will take head from this and will be knocking on the door in the near future.