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Spain And Italy's Bore Draw Gives Soccer A Bad Name


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.

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  1. ...

    June 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

    obviously this writer knows nothing about the sport of soccer, perhaps you’d prefer to watch the horrible teams that make up your mls while they destroy the sport of soccer.

    cabrone amricanos

  2. Lonnie

    June 23, 2008 at 8:59 pm


    The final is going to be Russia – Germany 😉 You must have gotten an incorrect copy of the TV listings!

  3. wanderer_abroad

    June 23, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    That was me who made that last comment btw 😉

  4. Anonymous

    June 23, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    That is only one example out of about 80 mins worth of pocession. Watch the game again and look out for the number of times that Silva and Iniesta cut back inside, its ridiculous. That’s the reason why the Spanish won’t win it, because they’re tactically naive. I expect Hiddink to give Aragones a master class in the semi’s, and exploit Spain’s limitations.

  5. Kartik

    June 23, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Yeah ABC has a soccer doubleheader.

    DC United- Galaxy at Noon
    Spain-Germany at 2:30

    About time the network gave soccer its due!

  6. Hudsonland

    June 23, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Spain didn’t try the fast counter-attacking tactics that would give the best opportunities against a stubborn Italian defence (see 3-0 Holland for an example). I blame that on coach Aragones, but then I hate the bastard so that’s hardly surprising.

  7. winstongator

    June 23, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I was disappointed that the Spanish so often would pass back instead of using quicker forward attacks. They let the Italians pack their side making it nearly impossible to get a good shot. Maybe that was a tactical order from the coach. The Russians seemed to charge hard all game, and should have plenty of motivation to reverse the group stage game. Spain will have to play a lot better to make the finals.

  8. The Gaffer

    June 23, 2008 at 6:30 am


    The game will be on ABC, which is a local free channel that you’ll be able to find on your hotel TV.

    The Gaffer

  9. pablo

    June 23, 2008 at 6:25 am

    I hope you can help me, I’m spanish but I’ll be in the States(NY) for the next weekend so I’m afraid I might miss the final (Sunday,29th). What are the channels broadcasting the tournament? Any chance of having them in a simple hotel tv?

  10. The Gaffer

    June 23, 2008 at 4:50 am

    Wanderer Abroad.

    Spain definitely used the flanks. One minute after Torres was substituted, Guiza received the ball from a left wing cross in the middle of the box but used his hands to bring down the ball.

    This was the first time one of those crosses from the left actually ended up getting to a Spaniard. All of the previous ones were headed away by the towering Italians.

    The Gaffer

  11. tentonipete

    June 23, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Remember that Italy had their first choice centre midfield partnership sitting in the stands. Also Spain played VERY narrow, they did not have wingers getting behind the Italy back line, which made it easy for the Italians to defend. Italy are obviously quite reliant on Pirlo for his creativity and in De Rossi and Ambrosini they weren’t getting this.

  12. peter0ck

    June 23, 2008 at 1:35 am

    what do you think can be done (if possible) to the game to discourage such “boring” or unentertaining style of football? i agree with the article… that these types of games will definitely detract American viewers. unfortunately, we see this type of play in the EPL at times… esp. when clubs at the bottom of the league try to pull out draws with the big 4 or when the big 4 play each other and games are just too tight. what can be done?

  13. wanderer_abroad

    June 23, 2008 at 1:31 am

    I’m sorry Gaffer but were you watching a different game to me in terms of the Spanish tactics? They were doing everything but going down the wings! From the offset of this tournament I have counted the amount of times that David Silva and Iniesta have cut inside and it must be about 90% of the time. THAT was the real reason this game was so poor. Italy were always expected to play their typical pragmatic game but the Spanish cannot be excused for their lazy tactics as well. Sure the Italians were the essence of boring today but watching Spain is like being in a dream, everything moves slowely, is fanciful but lacks anything of substance. When the Spanish finally learn that quick balls are devastating the sooner they’ll be to the team we all hope them to be. Every single time they have done this it has produced results. They did it in the first game and look what happened. They did it in the final seconds of the Sweden game and look what happened. It was ridiculous to see countless times today, Silva playing on the right wing. He is NOT right footed and so looked stupid everytime he cut inside. I picked Spain at the start of the tournament but I don’t have much hope if they play like this again.

  14. kaya

    June 23, 2008 at 1:08 am

    I think only Italy give football a bad name. Luca Toni earned his goat of the tournament through his accrual of bad karma with all the diving he’s been doing. Him and Ronaldo both make me ill with their flopping.
    As far as not winning over americans go, I don’t care. Show me any baseball game and I’ll show you something far more boring than today’s game. However… I’m more and more thinking video review should be incorporated somehow. The Italians got away with murder in the first half and there have been so many games unduly influenced by a bad call or lack of a call. Between the jersey pulling and the rampant acting of injuries to hinder a breakaway, FIFA really needs to come up with a creative way of making players think twice before using these tactics.
    The ref tonight was pretty awful, but no ref can catch all the things that go on. Good riddance. At least justice was served tonight.

  15. Pingback: Euro Dose June 22, ‘08 - Euro 2008

  16. Chad

    June 22, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I agree with every point in this article.

  17. Phil McThomas

    June 22, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    I now remember why I’ve not watched a Serie A match for ten years.

    I know they’re trying to win any way they can, but at the end of they day this is a sport, a form of entertainment. And that was anything but.

    Andy Gray was spot-on pointing out all the times when the Spanish should have had a penna in the first half. It would have been a better game if the ref had done his job properly.

  18. Kartik

    June 22, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I’m a total hypocrite.

    I’ve editorialized as most of you know over and over again about my objection MLS playing matches while so many MLS players are away on international duty, like today when again many players were with their national teams. Well the Italia match was typically Italia in a big tournament and the US match was boring and being played on a cricket pitch, so I did the only thing I could do (as I believe Jeffy did also!) I switched to telefutura and watched in stunning HD most of the second half between DC United and San Jose. Both teams were missing guys who were on international duty, but four goals in the 25 minutes or so I was watching while casually flipping back to the US and Euros every few minutes made me feel much much better.

  19. tim

    June 22, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    hard to defend this match, it was boring. so what! as i tell my kids “the beautiful thing about soccer is there is always another game”. who woulda thunk that czech v turkey would be the match of the week? i stopped trying to convince my fellow americans soccer is the most entertaining game in the world…their loss…!

  20. Hudsonland

    June 22, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I’ll assume Russia don’t play for penalties right from the kick-off, so the semi should be a better game, with two teams actually trying to score.

    If Fandel had given Spain one of the two or three decent shouts they had, Italy would have been forced to attack (against a weak Spanish defence) and we might have had an actual game on our hands.

    To be fair, a great defensive performance from Italy, it just doesn’t make great entertainment. And catenaccio would probably have worked if someone other than Luca Toni (tied with Mario Gomez for flop of the tournament?) was up top.

  21. m2fc

    June 22, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Who cares about those “non-believers”! I’ve had to suffer through countless american games of nfl, mlb and nba championships that are just as boring. Scoring is not equal to boring… it is far from it, if you watch a game just for scoring then don’t bother to watch because you don’t understand the game.

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