Back home

A disappointing Spain flies back home

It took me a while to digest Sunday’s defeat. Not only because I felt optimistic about the match and the squad, but especially because I liked the line-up and thought it sent the right message to the team and the rival.

However, it didn’t work. In fact, the match became the continuation of the downward spiral Spain’s game got into after the tournament started. Each match was a bit worse than the previous one in terms of energy, risks taken, errors committed. Making a simple extrapolation, the tournament was bound to end badly. Continue reading “Back home”

Overdose of motivation

Preview of Spain vs Russia

“Cautious optimism” is probably the concept that best summarises the atmosphere in the Spanish camp hours before their match against Russia in Moscow. True to form, coach Fernando Hierro has decided to focus on the motivational aspect of the contest. One only needs to see the squad train for a short warm-up session and it’s evident that they can beat any team if they feel like playing hard, so it makes sense that Hierro touches the incentives rather than the tactics. Continue reading “Overdose of motivation”

The night Saint Petersburg became Buenos Aires

Argentina defeat Nigeria and a few of their own ghosts

“Vení, vení, cantá conmigo” (Come, come, sing with me), starts the most repeated chant in Saint Petersburg during the last couple of days. The Argentines, present in every corner of the city, spent hours humming, whistling and very often singing the short, catchy tune off the top of their lungs, almost as a good luck charm that should make Lionel Messi and his teammates click in their do-or-die match against Nigeria. Continue reading “The night Saint Petersburg became Buenos Aires”

Top of the group, thank VAR

Spain struggle to draw with Morocco. Fresh ideas & legs are badly needed

The fact that Spain managed to qualify to the knockout stages of this World Cup in the first spot of their group defies all logic. Yes, they’re undefeated. Yes, they’ve scored six goals in three matches. Yes, they dominated proceedings for most of the games against their three rivals. But all those facts fail to tell the story of an embarrassing defence – both in open play and in set pieces –, and of an endless succession of touches without much intent to score, easily dealt with by their opponents. The way Spain have played, especially in the last two matches, does not look promising for the outcome of this World Cup. Continue reading “Top of the group, thank VAR”

Could Hierro have a Zidane effect?

Preview of Spain vs Iran

Will the Spanish national team make this humble scribe eat his own words? According to the sounds I hear from their concentration hotel, they very well might.

I’m referring to my irate piece on the bizarre chain of events that ended up with Fernando Hierro on the Spanish bench for this World Cup. Among other decisions from different individuals who earned my righteous disapproval, I could not see how Hierro’s arrival could improve Spain’s chances of winning the tournament, but here we are, and it now seems like most players have warmed to the arrival of Fernando Hierro faster than could have been expected. Continue reading “Could Hierro have a Zidane effect?”

Horror show in Russia

Or how to start a tournament off the wrong foot

The sequence of events surrounding the Spanish national team in the few days before the beginning of the World Cup deserves to be remembered as the pinnacle of Spanish sports weirdness, and that is quite a feat.

Decisions made and actions taken by every participant can indeed be justified: Real Madrid / Florentino’s ego needed a top-level coach; Julen Lopetegui felt that Real Madrid never calls twice, although a certain Fabio Capello may differ; and Mr Rubiales, the president of the Spanish FA, surely thought that Lopetegui’s behavior was disloyal to such an extent that the Basque coach could be trusted no longer.

But the fact that all three parties can argue their respective cases does not mean that they’re right. In fact, and from my extremely humble perspective, they are all closer to idiocy than to rational, sensitive behavior. Continue reading “Horror show in Russia”