Spain touches the sky | Team runner

It was as good as it gets for Spain. And I don’t mean just for this Spain team. One of the coolest things about soccer is its diverse stylistic traditions, which spring from a certain cultural context and can define how a club, city, country, and even continent feels the game is meant to be played. So the way Spain beat Costa Rica on Wednesday, not only the score — 7–0, in case you were wondering — but the fashion in which it was achieved, is not only a reflection of what this Spain can do, but also a representation of the Spanish ideal.

I’m going to post a video of highlights from the game and you should watch it because the goals are great. But you should know that the goal itself is a poor summary of why the game was so good. This is not because the goals were deceptive or that the game was more competitive than the scoreline might suggest. In fact, the score was quite appropriate, both seven and zero. Although Spain scored with almost every other shot they took (17 in total), they were so efficient in front of goal in large part because almost every chance they got, even the 10 they didn’t convert, was big. . As for the nil, the more indicative stat attesting to Spain’s ‘defensive’ prowess – scare quotes because the vast majority of Spain’s ‘defence’ consisted of keeping the ball so Costa Rica never even had a chance to attack – was this: Ticos took a total of zero shots the entire game. Not zero shots on target, zero shots of any kind.

Seven goals, no shots allowed, more than 80% possession – in a word, Spain were overwhelming. Absolutely, completely overwhelming.

So yes, a five-minute highlight from a seven-goal game will necessarily show little more than goal after goal after goal, largely omitting the accumulation of those goals and also the long interval lengths between goals, part of the game. a game that makes the game what it really is. But the main reason the above highlights don’t capture the true impact of Spain’s performance is that Spain as a team isn’t really about scoring goals.

This is a question of means and ends. For some teams, goals are the goal and style of play is the means to those goals. The goals justify the game and the way you can tell if the team has been successful is by looking at their goals. For Spain, it is the game itself that is the end and the goals are simply the consequences of that, well achieved.

It might sound a bit funny when put like that, but I think everyone gets the idea already. Spain – this Spanish team and the tradition of Spanish football in general – are often mocked for thinking more about ball possession and passing statistics than such common and unrefined actions as shooting and scoring. Spain’s caricature is a team with one goalkeeper and 10 midfielders who shuttle the ball around in circles, almost oblivious to the fact that the ostensible goal of the game is to kick the ball into the net. (Not coincidentally, Spain started the game against Costa Rica without a traditional striker on the pitch and with a defensive midfielder.) If the joke about Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal was that they always tried to put the ball in the net, for Spain they know not even that a network exists.

So to understand why Wednesday’s game was such a win for Spain, you wouldn’t find it in a summary of the goals. Instead, it was in Sergio Busquets first-time firing dozens of three-yard passes with terrifying accuracy, always with precisely the right tension and placement, always beating his team-mate’s stronger foot. It was in Marco Asensio, a natural attacking midfielder who dressed for this game as a striker (and not wrong 9!), supporting the game with passing and well-timed moves deep and wide to maintain Spain’s unique blend of security and threat. It was in Pedri’s subtle but profound influence how he simultaneously felt and responded to what the game was asking while imposing his own will on the proceedings when he saw fit, orchestrating the entire game without even playing directly along neither scoring nor assisting any of Spain’s goals. I know they’re going to take this video down, but Pedri’s acting was so damn good I’m going to include these individual highlights anyway:

Spain has had better teams than this one and of course has played and won bigger games than this game in the group stage against the super team of Costa Rica. Still, this was Spain at its most Spanish, realizing a sense of national identity and so far the most impressive single performed at this World Cup to boot. Spain should be incredibly proud of this game and this team and it’s not really equal because they scored seven goals and conceded none.

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