Spain Touches the Sky | Defector

It was as good as it got for Spain. And I don’t just mean that this Spain team. One of the most interesting things about soccer is its diverse stylistic traditions that arise from specific cultural contexts and can define how a club, city, country, or even continent feels about playing the game. So Spain’s win over Costa Rica on Wednesday wasn’t just about the margin of victory — 7-0, in case you’re wondering — but the fashion in which it was achieved is not only a reflection of what Spain can do, but also a representation of the Spanish ideal.

I will post a video of the highlights from the game and you should watch it because the goals are fantastic. But you should know that the goals themselves are a poor summary of why the game is so good. It’s not that the goals were deceiving or that the match was more competitive than the scoreline suggests. Actually the score was exactly right, both seven and zero. Although the Spaniards scored with almost every shot they took (17 in total), they were very efficient in front of goal for the most part, as almost every chance they had, even the 10 they didn’t convert, was huge. . As for the zero, more telling stats testifying to Spain’s ‘defensive’ prowess – scare quotes, as the vast majority of Spain’s ‘defence’ consisted of keeping the ball so Costa Rica never even had a chance to attack. Ticos had a combined zero shots in the entire game. Not a zero shot on target, but any kind of zero shot.

Seven goals, zero shots allowed, over 80 percent possession – in short, Spain were huge. Totally, totally overwhelming.

So, yes, a five-minute highlight reel from a seven-goal match will definitely show little more than goal after goal, skipping most of the build-up of goals and also the long breaks between goals, parts of goals. the game that makes the game what it really is. But the main reason why the above points do not reflect the true impact of Spain’s performance is that Spain as a team is not really about scoring goals.

It’s kind of a matter of means and ends. For some teams, goals are the goal and style of play is the means to achieve those goals. Goals drive the game, and the way to tell if a team is succeeding is to look at their goals. For Spain, the game itself is the end, and the goals are simply the results of the end achieved.

It might sound a little funny when put like that, but I think everyone already intuitively understands the idea. Spain – this Spanish team and more so the tradition of Spanish football – is derided for focusing more on possession and passing statistics than on general and unspecified actions like shooting and scoring. Spain’s caricature is a team of one goalkeeper and 10 midfielders who pass the ball between them in circles, almost unaware that the ostensible goal of the game is to hit the ball into the net. (Not coincidentally, Spain started the match against Costa Rica with no traditional striker and a defensive midfielder.) If the joke about Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal was that they were always trying to put the ball in the net, for Spain it would be that they were the net. they are not even aware of its existence.

To understand why Wednesday’s match was such a triumph for Spain, you won’t find it in a collection of goals. Instead, Sergio Busquets hit dozens of first-time three-yard passes with frightening precision, always with precise tension and ground, always onto his team-mate’s stronger leg. Dressed as a striker in this match was the naturally attacking midfielder Marco Asensio (and not lie 9!), support the game with passes and deep and wide timing movements to protect Spain’s unique mix of safety and threat. It was in the subtle but profound influence of Pedri, how he simultaneously sensed and responded to what the game demanded, while also imposing his will on the proceedings when he saw fit, managing the entire match without once scoring or taking a direct handball. did Assisting any Spanish team. I know they’re going to take this video down, but Pedri’s performance was so good that I’ll include these individual highlights anyway:

Spain have better teams and certainly played and won bigger games than Costa Rica in this group stage. Still, it was a Spain on top, a realization of national identity and the most impressive single display to open this World Cup so far. Spain should be incredibly proud of this game and this team, and not least because they scored seven goals and conceded none.