The Spaniards introduced a new brand into World football in the early to mid-2000’s. Tiki-taka, fluid – beautiful, joyful-to-watch soccer that held fans in a trance as long as a game lasts. Beautiful football that left opponents of the Spaniards chasing shadows on the pitch. On the back of Tiki-taka, Spain absolutely ruled the world. Between 2007 and 2013, the Spaniards lost just eight matches, of those just three were official, the other matches were ‘mere’ friendlies.
But between 2014 and 2017, the world caught up to Tiki-taka, and Spain lost nine matches, five of these were in official competitions (including the 2-0 set-back against Italy that just ended their Euro 2016).
The brand of short passing, possession football favoured by the Spaniards ‘died’ at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The 5-1 dismantling by Holland in the opening game, followed by the 2-0 loss to Chile that ended their World Cup, also signalled the end of that brand of football.
Euro 2016 was supposed the tournament that will see Spain re-take their place in World football. The loss to Croatia was an ‘anomaly’, a slug-fest of delightful football that could have seen the result go in any direction. The real test was to be in the Round of 16 tie against Italy and Catenaccio: fluid soccer against organized football. Spain had won five and lost only one of previous last 10 meetings, on this day the Catenaccio proved superior.
The Italians were more incisive and direct in their play, leaving the ‘passing’ Spaniards exposed. While Spain had more possession, the Italians had more shots on targets. The many passes of the Spaniards gave the deep-sitting Italians time to figure out Spanish game plan, while Italians confused the Spanish defence with their combination of wide play and swift midfield thrusts. The size of Graziano Pelle meant he was able to keep Sergio Ramos and Gerrard Pique busy, at the other end, young gun, Alvarao Morata got little change from the experienced troika of Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci.
But credit must be given to David De Gea. Without the Man United shot stopper, the contest would have been over in the first half.
Now, the Spaniards must go back home and try to fashion out a new way forward. Tiki-taka is dead and buried!
Picture Courtesy BBC.com