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Spain move towards Brazil with a smile

AS AS 31/05/2014 Juanma Trueba

Paul Newman once explained his loyalty in gastronomic terms: Why go out for a hamburger when you can have a steak at home? It’s a good argument, but it’s not airtight. The steak that is the Spain team, current World and European champions, should be enough to win our wholehearted loyalty time after time, because there’s no better ‘meat’ on earth. Yet as you watched Spain play at certain points during this game that longing for ta bit of minced meat and big dollop of ketchup, that yellow splodge of industrially produced mustard started to creep in. Some admit it, others don’t, but the disloyalty is the same.

In many ways, the relationship between the fans and this team reminds you of one of those marriages made in heaven, where happiness sometimes gives rise to boredom, even drowsiness. Against Bolivia the same thing happened. The crowd didn’t hurl any accusations, because in Seville they only need to turn up to have a good time, but among the non-Seville residents there was a degree of concern. Spain spent the whole of the first half moving but with no end-product, danger-free attacks full of possession, the script re-written a hundred times.

What is true is that this Spain side plays the same way against everyone - from the modest to the mighty – and nearly always wins, which would suggest that maybe the problem is not the team, but those of us that are watching. Maybe it’s just our palates, which for some reason crave that ground beef, that dodgy meatball.

In the midst of this vexation we all cheered (hungrily) when the referee blew his whistle after 49 minutes, pointing to the penalty spot for a little nudge on Javi Martínez, little more than a slap on the back. ‘El Niño’ dedicated his penalty to Panenka – in fact, Torres could have had more, but it seemed as though his anxiety got the better of him and you get the impression he should think less when he pops up in a goalscoring position. As Liverpool’s Bob Paisley once said: “If you're in the penalty area and don't know what to do with the ball, put it in the net and we'll discuss the options later”

After a first half where only Cazorla and Pedro looked sharp, along with the restrained contribution of Iturraspe, the second was injected with more life simply through the presence of Iniesta, Silva and Cesc, who were also were joined by Deulofeu in a sprightly final ten minutes or so.

The upshot being that Spain improved when the group of players that define its style of play joined forces, the ones we call the little guys. This was confirmed by Iniesta’s goal – a neat pass into the net via the post, a relief when faced with the prospect of squeezing out another low-scoring victory. But we are who we are, steak to be precise. Sorry for doubting, Mr Newman.

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