Forget the comparison with the 1970 Brazil team and the ensuing debate as to whether this Spain team is the greatest national side ever. Those arguments are endless and ultimately fruitless, as the style and nature of the game changes so much over time. We can conclude, however, that this Spanish side is certainly the greatest of this generation and should be appreciated as such.
They are superior in so many facets to their rivals. Collectively, their technique is so finely tuned they are able to play their one touch football anywhere on the pitch. The ability to pass their way out of their own defensive third whilst being heavily pressed is testament to their flawless ability. Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos are both fine footballers, as well as fine defenders, allowing the team to play out from the back regardless of the pressure they’re under.
Defensively they are near perfect – not in the traditional sense but in their own unique style. In the method of Pep’s Barcelona, they deny the opposition any time and space by pressing instantly and in packs. At no point did it look as though Italy would breach Iker Casillas’ goal during the final. Indeed, three successive tournaments have now passed since they conceded even a goal in the knockout stages, with Zinedine Zidane the last to do so in 2006.
Least discussed, but perhaps most importantly, they have an undying mental strength. To play in their style requires a resolute belief in both their own ability and that of their teammates, which they have in abundance and then some. This group of players are used to success, both domestically and on the international stage, yet their desire and hunger never diminishes. You could almost refer to them as the polar opposite of the Netherlands.
It is true that they were not always at their flowing best during Euro 2012, but they always beat what was in front of them. And having been subjected to criticisms of being boring, they responded in style by demolishing Italy in the final. The goals were typical Spain, especially the first two which were results of fantastic play by Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Cesc Fàbregas.
Fàbregas filled the void left by David Villa’s absence and is the walking epitome of this Spanish side. His technique is flawless, as is many of his teammates, but it is his footballing intelligence that makes him stand out. He plays in one role for Spain and another for Barcelona, both of which are different to that which he fulfilled at Arsenal for many years. Each requires an alternative skill set and a different mentality, but he adapts almost seamlessly. It is expected that as the years eventually catch up with Xavi and he struggles to maintain his level of performance, Fàbregas will replace him for club and country. He is the modern Spanish footballer, a product of the education he received at youth level.
This period of Spanish dominance is not a fluke, but a result of breeding a generation of players in this mould and is a lesson to all others. They are a joy to watch and no other national side even comes close. Don’t waste your time considering whether they are the best ever, or whether they will be bettered in the future; simply enjoy them as they are now.