There is nothing eternal in this world except the change itself. How true. And no exception goes to football. Euro 2012 has been highlighting the change among the how the football is played among the nations. Here we go, oh the list goes without particular order:
The first team ever that has won European tournament back to back, the first team ever that has won 3 major tournament with the World Cup trophy sandwiched between them. The achievement of imperious Spain is at its peak and many argue if any team could emulate such feat in future. But behind such shiny golden ink there was a gloomy taint behind it. Before 2008, Spain was an European sickman, never had won anything since 1968. Top players emerged, the clubs won the international scene, the national team always impressed during early phase of tournament, but La Furia Roja always fail to win any single trophy.
What a contrary to be compared with current Spain. At 2010, Spain lost their first match against Switzerland. Doubts haunted over the national team, but eventually they marched on through victory and made the history. Never did the World Cup winner lost their first match, but Spain did and they break the myth to lay it as the foundation of their glory.
Pretty much same script happened in Euro 2012. Draw against Italy and late-game winner against Croatia made them looked somewhat weak. Then, Spain advanced to semifinal and final through penalty shootout, twice, against France and Portugal. Unimpressive results, slow passing, no real striker, and labeled as boring. It seemed Spain would undergo difficult night at final, but they saved the best for the last. Now all the critics sound like a jokes considering how fantastic was the final display against Italy.
Back then, people knew Spain as king of qualifiers and knockout flops. Now, the team turns into monsters of knockout stage, as statistics prove that they have never conceded any single goal during 13 matches at it.
Compared to Spain, the contrast phenomena happened to Germany. Known as the tournament specialis, Germany always ready to provide surprise. Who expect Germany would thump the legendary Hungary 3-2 in World Cup 1954 final although the Magic Magyar thrashed them 5-2 in previous meeting in group ? Fast forward to 20 years later, now the legendary Total Football Netherlands fell victim to Panzer Team. They hadn’t play any beautiful football, nor the players had dazzling technique. It was their teamwork and tough champion mentality to be feared. Look at Euro 1996. Look how Bierhoff had such nerve of steel to calmly slot the ball past Czech goal to claim Henry Danaulay trophy. Compare him to Schweinsteiger that even didn’t have nerve to watch his teammate taking a penalty in UCL Final extra time. What a backstep.
The Germans could grieve over how it turns out. Now, Germany had always been considered as tournament contender. They had always impressed the world with their terrific matches. Still fresh in mind that Germany scored 4-0 result twice in World Cup 2010, against Australia and Argentina, only to fall in semifinal against Spain. Pretty much same story in Euro 2012. Love game in group stage, defeated Greece 4-2 with different players, thus made it 15 winning consecutive matches and it is still the world record. Great squad depth and winning momentum created a juggernaut phatamorgana, but it was great void inside. The tournament specialist has gone, the champion mentality has gone, Germany didn’t have any grasp in game in their defeat against Italy thus made them into tournament flops.
It is kinda ironic that actually never has in history German have such abundant players resources. Neuer, Hummels, Lahm, Schwensteiger, Kheidira, Ozil, Gomez. All of them are leading players in football world in their respective position. The backups are nothing short of lacking. Howedes, Reus, Goetze, Klose etc, they would make it into first team if they have different nationality. Such great resources to no avail. They couldn’t emulate what their predecessors did. The older generation of Germany national team might envy the ballskill of current generation, but the latter must be drooling all over the floor for the mentality of the former.
The defence of Nazionale used to be known as sturdy as Colosseum. Now, it is as soft as the gelato. Veterans such as Zoff, Baresi, Zenga, Pagliuca, Peruzzi, Scirea (RIP), Baresi, Maldini, Costacurta, Gentile, Cannavaro etc must be scratching their head now to see how the defense are lined up today. If Pagliuca could impress in World Cup 1998 albeit his position as Peruzzi’s deputy and Toldo could became national hero only because Buffon suffered sudden injury, now the already 34-years Buffon can’t find adequate backup. And how could Bonucci, Barzagli, and Chiellini step up in the position which was filled by Nesta-Cannavaro. It became even funnier when Prandelli must pick De Rossi as makeshift central defender. Back then Italy could had 6 worldclass defenders. The irony goes on with considering Ranocchia into Euro roster (substituting Criscito). Even the slight tought of considering Ranocchia should be considered as a crime against legendary reputation of Italy defence.
Euro 2012 was just another extention of traditional England. Having the most fascinating league in the world, great individual quality, off-the-pitch problems, injury problems, disciplinary problems, and lost to penalty shoot-out. Same old England, right ? But there was something missing. It was the overhype thing, there wasn’t any favourite tag on England jersey. When was the last time we heard the English and press didn’t consider their national team as title contender ?
Premier League sure is the most attractive league in the world and seems that it misleads entire England people to believe that their nation is the great football powerhouse in the globe. As fact speaks, false. The last major trophy that England got is World Cup 1966, it was 46 years ago. During these 46 years, the best achievement England could get was the semifinal of Euro 1996. Considering such facts, it is funny how every English, especially press, keeps overating the national team and underestimating the others. Spain couldn’t be a world champion because they only had 1 EPL players Fernando Torres ? Messi would struggle in cold night of Stoke ? Pele and Maradona were untested because they had never played in EPL ? The list of such ignorant lines goes on. And today the miracle happen. They considered Spain and Germany as strong favourites and they didn’t put any high expectation to the national team. The troubles before the tournament might be affecting all of them. Regardless what happened, it was the first time (or maybe the last time ?) the Three Lions went to tournament without the aim to be the triumphant.
The producer of mass silk-touch players now has turned into steel-legs factory. Brazil was used to be identic with great attacker and weak defender. Please name the great attackers Brazil have ever have and the list will go endless. Now, please name the great defenders before 2000 and you will have hard time, let alone to name the goalkeeper. And what a surprise to see how Brazil is lined up today. The core is on the defence. Cesar, Lucio, Thiago Silva, Ramires, and Lucas, who could imagine Brazil will produce such tremendous goalkeeper, centerbacks, and defensive midfielders ? Aldair and Dunga would wonder if they could have such immense partners in defensive line. But forget it, the former would laugh instead if he checks who fills in the attacking unit role. As for Dunga, he might wonder if CBF has emulated his coaching method too far.
The emergence of solid defence isn’t as surprising as the submergence of the forwards. Brazil used to have Garrincha, Pele, Zico, Ronaldo, Rivellino, Jairzinho, Falcao, Socrates, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo etc. And now, whom Brazil have ? Kaka had ended his career by moving to Los Blancos. Hulk, Pato, Robinho, Neymar, and Ganso are pale in comparison to the legendary names mentioned above. Neymar and Ganso are both talented and still have much time to develop themselves, but considering how they played in Copa America 2011, Brazil should worry about the future.. Never had Brazil attended the tournament without worldclass strikers since 1958 and today, they did it in 2 recent tournaments (World Cup and Copa America). And recently Brazil is ranked 11 in FIFA world ranking, the first time in football history. Well, there is first of everything, but in Brazil case, they are sure too many and in unpleasant ways.