'Boring' Spain make final, but Fabregas is no Lionel Messi
Football's love affair with tiki taka may be over as criticism of Spain's six-man midfield grows
SPAIN may have made it to the final of Euro 2012 but they are not making many friends along the way, as fans grow tired of their intricate brand of possession football and the stubborn refusal of coach Vincent Del Bosque to play a striker.
Against Portugal in the semi-final he once again overlooked the merits of Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente and instead started the game with Seville's Alvaro Negredo up front. When he failed to make an impact Del Bosque's response was to revert to what his critics call 4-6-0 and bring on midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
And although the Spanish prevailed on penalties there is growing discontent among the fans. Richard Williams in The Guardian calls it "football's most interesting philosophical debate in years".
He acknowledges that Spain are a team of artists who want to win through creative means but adds that their 'tiki taka' brand of possession football is "squeezing the life out of the idea of football as a competitive endeavour". What's more, it "robs the game of the explosive, percussive element".
Forget the philosophy says Jim White in The Daily Telegraph. "I know we should all bend the knee in abeyance to the moral superiority of tiki taka football, but at times watching the Spaniards in action I just wish they'd get on with it and stop faffing." He even admits that he wants Germany to win Euro 2012. "The purist may prefer Spain's intricacies, but the Germans' strength and athleticism makes them a far more compelling sight in full flight."
But John Leicester of Associated Press is having none of it. He accuses Spain's critics of being "disrespectful" and is scandalised by the fans who have whistled at the Spanish as they pass the ball around or, worse still, watched in disinterested silence.
Those supporters "either don't appreciate or don't understand why Spain plays as it does and how difficult its game of intricate passes is to execute", he says. "People get bored of winners... And now, the Spanish appear to be on the receiving end of that jaded syndrome."
Football fans want instant gratification says Graham Ruthven in the New York Times and lack the required attention span to appreciate tiki taka.
"Perhaps those who wish the World Cup and European champions would shoot from absurd distances or shell the opposition's penalty area with high balls are the same people who faulted Citizen Kane for not having enough explosions or car chases," he notes.
But Spain lack a cutting edge. Commentators all agree that the 4-6-0 formation is based on the formula used at Barcelona, however Spain lack one vital ingredient - Lionel Messi, whose dribbling provides a counterpoint to all the passing. "Fabregas simply doesn’t offer the same option," says Ruthven.
And the toothless performance against Portugal only served to back up a point made by James Lawton of The Independent earlier this week.
"La Roja still play on the side of the angels," he wrote, but football is about goals and Spain now appear to be playing possession football just for the sake of it. "The statistics here, as they did in the World Cup two years ago, continue to show a huge imbalance between Spain's control of the ball and their ability to inflict killing damage."