Spain’s Olympic football team crashed out of the London 2012 Olympics after two painful defeats against Japan (0-1) and Honduras (0-1). Against the Central Americans, La Rojita failed to score despite taking 24 shots and hitting the woodwork three times in the second half.
Javi Martinez explained: "I've never experienced anything like it. We haven't scored a single goal in 2 matches, this is incredible. It's unfair but, in football, you get punished if you don't score. We must keep going."
Let's be clear here: The rules of football are very clear. If you score more goals than your opponents, you win. If you don't, you lose. La Rojita didn't score once in 2 matches and are therefore eliminated - deservedly. The word "unfair" should be replaced by "unexpected".
In a way, this whole situation reminds me of the Chelsea - Barcelona in last season's Champions League semifinals: One team trying to create chances by playing attacking football, the other putting all their efforts into defending. As a firm admirer of Johan Cruyff's total football philosophy, I would obviously prefer those who try to build beautiful plays succeeding but we must also respect those who choose to play a more defensive game.
Spain lacked patience and seemed to take a much more direct approach to the game, at times ignoring the tiki-taka model which has made Del Bosque's senior squad so successful in recent years. I wonder if Luis Milla, Spain's Olympic coach, actually took the time to watch how Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas approached the Euro 2012 championship earlier this summer...
I personally feel the absence of Thiago Alcantara due to injury hurt the Spanish Olympic squad dearly. The Samba Kid would have added Barcelona's unique passing game to the Spanish midfield, the ability to pace the game while keeping the ball flowing patiently until clear gaps were created.
I must also admit that, despite playing every minute of the Olympic competition so far at a good standard, Jordi Alba hasn't been as impressive as in the Euro 2012 tournament. Martin Montoya has also played 180 minutes of football so far at a decent level. Cristian Tello has been used as a late substitute in both matches.
In general, I failed to see that extra spark of desire in the Spanish players' eyes. It sometimes felt as if winning the Olympic Gold wasn't really that important, a sort of minor achievement. In contrast, Japan and Honduras worked tirelessly and fully deserved their positive results.
From a Barcelona point of view though, I feel this London 2012 fiasco is actually good news. Yes, I am fully aware that 3 Olympic Gold medals would have boosted our youngsters' confidence but Spain's elimination means Jordi Alba, Martín Montoya and Cristian Tello will join Tito Vilanova's pre-season camp much earlier than they would have done otherwise. The sooner our new coach has all players at his disposal, the better.
Oh well. I guess Spain's unexpected failure comes at the right time and could be used as a wake-up call for future competitions.
In football, as in life, only those who are constantly improving while staying true to themselves end up succeeding.
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Posted by: Francesc Tomàs
Founder and columnist at www.barcablog.com
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