It was supposed to be a classic. Two of the top teams in Europe, Italy and Spain, with some of the best footballers in the world on display. But what we saw was a dire game featuring two teams more focused on avoiding defeat than trying to win. Other than the Romania against France game, this was the worst match of the tournament.
With such a big game being broadcast around the world, you would hope that the teams would come out and play attractive football. Italy, especially, was absolutely abysmal in the way that they treated the game putting so many players behind the ball that it was no wonder Spain had difficulty trying to score. For so much of the match, the Spanish attackers had to try and weave their way past eight players in the back.
Instead what we saw, over and over again, was Spain going down the wings and floating balls into the box only for Italy to head the ball away due to their height advantage.
Living here in the United States, it’s always a battle to try to win over fans of traditional sports and make them soccer fans. But in a game like we saw tonight, the criticisms those non-believers cry out became true: Soccer is low scoring and boring (this one almost put me to sleep at times). Soccer players feign injuries (the Italians were particularly guilty of this). Penalties are a dumb way to end games (I agree). And so on and so forth.
Games like these don’t make it easy for soccer fans in the United States. Sure, not every match can be a classic but I thought Italy’s negative tactics were embarrassing. They defended superbly, yes. But they were far too cautious and sat back hoping to hold on for a 0-0 draw or grab a late winner.
The better team on the night won but only barely. Spain, the consummate underachievers, lacked the creativity and clinical finishing in front of goal to put this match away. Against a different opposition they may have had a chance to shine better but I expected more from the Spaniards. Unless they can improve in a few days time, I feel Russia has an excellent chance of making it to the final.