Euro 2012 Final: Spanish stay loyal to tiki-taka as heretics cry 'boring'

Spain have done admirably to please most of the people most of the time since their upbeat, possession-dominated tiki-taka style came into vogue on the way to their Euro 2008 triumph.

Updated: June 29, 2012 20:25 IST
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Kiev: Spain have done admirably to please most of the people most of the time since their upbeat, possession-dominated tiki-taka style came into vogue on the way to their Euro 2008 triumph.

La Roja reaped further plaudits when they lifted the World Cup and now they stand on the verge of the unprecedented against Italy on Sunday in Kiev - a third straight major tournament success.

Spanish fans, starved of success for four decades, have lapped it up - as would England fans who have existed on their own thin gruel since 1966.

And, for a while, so did neutrals who perhaps convinced themselves they were watching a parallel continuation of Barcelona albeit with the key ingredient of Leo Messi taken out.

Yet trophies are one thing.

Entertainment is another.

During their goalless semi-final against Portugal, fans began to indulge in a little heresy - they began to boo as Spain tried to move the ball around from one to another as one might expect during a training session, when choreographing the move is one thing and the finish is very much secondary.

And boo they might - for there was no finish.

The boo-boys of the Donbass Arena are not alone, for the press swiftly picked up on the theme.

Yet Spain, who won both Euro 2008 and the World Cup by a 1-0 margin, are sticking to their guns - even if, with centre forwards largely confined to the bench those guns are not firing all too often.

"Our game is one which has brought us success and that's the way we play - though you can respect all shades of opinion," says midfielder Andres Iniesta in Spain's defence.

Iniesta says Spain can only try to prise open other sides if their rivals don't "park the bus" and play ultra-defensively in response.

"When a team wants to attack against another which is closed up and closes down space then the football which results is not as attractive as when you face an attractive side which wants to chase the win," Iniesta explains.

The current Spanish recipe for playing keep ball and awaiting their moment "is what has brought us success, we are identified with this."

Some of the most vociferous criticism has come from the Russian and the Italian media.

"The Spaniards' monotonous keep-ball soon provoked booing from the stands against Portugal. Some people have grown tired of a style based on long possession of the ball as they didn't find it all that wonderful - often, it's boring," wrote Russian daily Sport Express.

"Unlike Barcelona, there is no attacking catalyst such as Messi," the paper opined.

Such musings have also been voiced in the Italian papers in recent days.

"The determination of (Spain coach Vicente) Del Bosque to go back to putting out a team short of a spearhead finds its explanation in the possession of the ball and the positive effect (that has) the limiting of risk for (goalkeeper Iker) Casillas," opines La Gazzetta dello Sport.

La Gazzetta added: "You end up asking yourself where is Messi, who is the usual end user of the ball" as witnessed by his phenomenal strike rate last season at Barca.

Del Bosque in contrast has tried Messi and Iniesta clubmate Cesc Fabregas in the role of a 'false number nine' - and indeed the midfielder has scored two goals to be fair.

But he is not Messi.

The real number nine, Fernando Torres, was benched against the Portuguese, David Villa is absent through injury, Fernando Llorente has yet to appear and Alvaro Negredo did not look the man to unlock the door in the semi - as proved when he gave way to Cesc.

Del Bosque shrugs his shoulders.

"The false nine debate is more a media creation than ours. With this tactic we gain depth and have more continuity in our play, the thinking being that chances will arrive," the coach explains.

"Our style suits us and we must not doubt it. Having doubts would be worse."

Former Real Madrid handler Del Bosque hopes to be vindicated in Kiev on Sunday when he could become the first coach ever to win the World Cup, the Euros - (he was not in charge in 2008) - and the Champions League.

That would allow him to turn Sir Winston Churchill's dictum - "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" on its head by removing any mention of failure.

Whatever the boo boys say about Spain, to date the dictum applies far more neatly to the likes of England.

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