El Centrocampista

What went wrong for Spain as Olympic dream turns to humiliating failure?

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Nigel Roddis/Reuters

Spain’s Olympic football team bowed out of the Games in London this week without scoring a goal in their three group games. The pre tournament favourites left Manchester’s Old Trafford stadium with their tails between their legs as the surprise pairing of Japan and Honduras progressed to the quarter finals.

Wednesday’s scoreless draw with Morocco left Luis Milla’s side bottom of Group D, something of a surprise when you consider 10 of the players that featured in the victorious under 21 side that won the European under 21 European Championships last summer also featured this summer in London. However, the clinical finishing that was a feature of that tournament was evidently lacking this time around.

Much was expected of this young Spanish side and with the likes of Juan Mata, Jordi Alba and Javi Martinez on show the high expectation was surely justifiable. Along with these three players who are regulars in the full National side, there was an abundant array of young talent who are expected to establish themselves in the senior side over the next few years.

Spain’s exit will come as a setback to these youngsters who no doubt are capable of much better. Rarely did we glimpse what they are capable of in open play and their lack of penetration in front of goal was worrying to say the least. Milla commented after the game: “We created more chances in the last three games than we did in the whole tournament in Denmark last summer. We had no luck. We had the recognised style of Spanish play as always but if the ball won’t go in, it won’t go in. But there is no justification for not scoring.”

Although it is unfair to compare the Olympic team and Vicente del Bosque’s side that won the European Championships last month, there are similarities between the two. Spain were criticised throughout the tournament in Poland and Ukraine for their style of play and lack of goals.Many believed Spain’s decision to play without a recognised striker for most of the tournament limited their potency in front of goal, although, the successful defence of their crown negated that criticism somewhat.

However, with the dismal failure of Milla’s side, the questions return with some even suggesting Spanish football at the highest level is now becoming ever more synonymous  with lack of goals. Interestingly, if you take away the four goal demolition of Italy in the final as well as the 4-0 win over a dismal Ireland side in the group stages of Euro 2012, Spain only managed four more goals in the whole of the tournament.

The quick passing tiki taka style of play may be easy on the eye but it is also seemingly easy to defend against when a solid and disciplined back line is put in its path. In the 2010 World Cup only eight goals were scored and half of those victories were by a one goal margin. Ultimately of course, many will argue the only thing that matters is the victory, whether it is by one goal or 10.

The Spanish style of play has been talked about over and over for the last few years. However, on this occasion the team that plays the most beautiful football did not produce what really matters in football – goals. Only a fool would criticise the style of play that have made Spain the best team in the world over the last few years. Nevertheless, in this most recent tournament, Spain could have benefited from a more direct approach and an alteration of tactics at times which potentially could have yielded goals for Luis Milla’s side.

After all the success that has come Spain’s way in recent times, the Olympic gold medal is one prize that will not be added to the trophy cabinet. At least not for another four years anyhow.




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  1. Pingback: Spain’s Olympic Soccer Failure – Fox News

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