Monday, July 12, 2010

Joe Posnanski on Spain's World Cup victory

Once Spain advanced to the knock-out stage their results were as follows:

Spain beat Portugal 1-0.
Spain beat Paraguay 1-0.
Spain beat Germany 1-0.
Spain beat Netherlands 1-0.

Gripping, right? Well … strangely … yes. It was gripping because Spain didn’t win those 1-0 matches with thuggery or by playing everybody back deep or even with stout defense. No, they won matches with their sheer brilliance at keeping possession, passing the ball to each other, showing off their preposterous talents for handling the ball. You couldn’t get the thing away from them. The Spaniards were like pool hustlers running table after table, like Fast Eddie Felson in “The Hustler” who, when told by Minnesota Fats that he needed to quiet down and shoot pool, snapped off: “I am shooting pool, Fats. When I miss, you can shoot.” Yes, that was Spain — when they gave up the ball, you could have it. Only they didn’t give up the ball. Sooner or later, they would wear their opponents down with the sheer skill of their play. And once those opponents were properly worn down, Spain would strike. They scored the game-winning goal in the 63rd minute against Portugal, the 83rd against Paraguay, the 73rd against Germany. It was even later, as you know, against the Netherlands.

It’s precarious to play that kind of soccer because it takes so much talent, so much concentration, so much confidence — one mistake, one good counterattack, one shaky official’s call could make all the difference.

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