BANGALORE: When you shoot the ball you score. Football is very simple that way. Goals win you games. Not possession, not number of passes, not passing percentages not beautiful flicks.
Unfortunately, Spain, instead of shooting, kept passing the ball around throughout their game against Chile which eventually led to their downfall. They became the fifth defending champions in the history of the FIFA World Cup to bow out of the title race in the very first round.
The Spanish game has been built around 'ball-possession', the 'tiki-taka' approach that has come to be the hallmark of FC Barcelona's style of play. With plenty of tireless midfielders around, they stroke the ball up and about the park with abandon. Opponents barely even manage to touch it for long spells. But mere possession means nothing unless translated into goals.
Remember the old saying? "So what if he has the ball, let him have it."
However, 'possession football' is not new. Turn the clock back to the 1974 World Cup finals in Munich between hosts Germany and Netherlands. Just a minute into the game, team Oranje moved up, trading 16 passes to send Netherlands forward Johan Cruyff tearing into the box. He was brought down by Germany's Uli Hoeness inside the area and Referee Jack Taylor of England pointed to the spot. The Dutch went ahead as Johan Neeskens scored. No German player had even touched the ball before falling into arrears. That Germany themselves had a penalty and eventually won 2-1 is another story. Even Spain played attractive football in the Emilio Butregueno or Raul Gonzalez eras.
But unless a player shoots, how can he score a goal? After all, every aspect like team formation, tactics, fitness, the choice of players is looked into for a team to score and win. Even the billions of fans around the world, not just fans of the World Cup, but of every footballing league, go to a game to watch footballers score beautiful goals, not to watch a team keep possession.
Spain are, indeed, the defending champions. They won the World Cup in 2010. But how? They passed the ball all through the game and eventually scored only late in the second half of injury time. They won only because Netherlands missed the opportunity to score on at least five occasions. Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie had frittered away chances in many one-to-one situations with Spain’s goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Had they scored once, they might have done that again and won. Netherlands learnt from their mistake and during their clash this year, they won 5-1 over Spain.
Shockingly, Spain had not learnt their lessons. Coach Vicente Del Bosque erred in his choice of players. Diego Costa was not the striker he should have fielded. Fernando Torres or David Villa were the ones who should have started. And surely, Gerard Pique wasn't the defender to be on the bench against Chile.
The fact remains that Spain simply refused to accept the flaws in their approach despite being successful often. An air of arrogance permeated their displays in recent times. They bowed out more due to their own failings.