It was pretty much as good because it will get for Spain. And I don’t solely imply for this Spain group. One of many coolest issues about soccer is its diverse stylistic traditions, which emerge out of particular cultural contexts and may outline how a membership, a metropolis, a rustic, and even a continent feels it’s meant to play the sport. So the way in which Spain beat Costa Rica on Wednesday, not solely the margin of victory—7–0, in case you had been questioning—however the trend during which it was achieved, just isn’t solely a mirrored image of what this Spain can do however can also be a illustration of the Spanish superb.
I’m going to embed a video of highlights from the sport, and you need to watch it, as a result of the targets are incredible. However you need to know that the targets themselves are a poor abstract of why the sport was so good. This isn’t as a result of the targets had been misleading or that the match was extra aggressive than the scoreline may counsel. In truth the rating was wholly applicable, each the seven and the zero. Although the Spaniards scored with almost each different shot they took (they fired off 17 whole), they had been so environment friendly in entrance of aim largely as a result of virtually each likelihood that they had, even the ten they didn’t convert, was a giant one. As for the zero, the extra indicative stat testifying to Spain’s “defensive” prowess—scare quotes as a result of the overwhelming majority of Spain’s “defending” concerned conserving the ball in order that Costa Rica by no means even had an opportunity to assault—was this: the Ticos took a mixed zero pictures all sport. Not zero pictures on track, zero pictures of any kind.
Seven targets, zero pictures allowed, greater than 80 % possession—in a phrase, Spain was overwhelming. Utterly, completely overwhelming.
So sure, a five-minute spotlight reel from a match with seven targets is essentially going to point out little greater than aim after aim after aim, skipping a lot of the buildup of these targets and likewise the lengthy interstitial stretches between targets, the elements of the sport that make the sport what it truly is. However the primary motive why the above highlights don’t actually seize the true impression of Spain’s efficiency is as a result of Spain as a group isn’t actually about scoring targets.
It’s form of a query of means and ends. For some groups, targets are the ends and the fashion of play is the means to these ends. The targets justify the play, and the way in which you’ll be able to inform if the group succeeded is by taking a look at their targets. For Spain, it’s the play itself that’s the finish, and the targets are merely penalties of that finish properly achieved.
It’d sound slightly humorous when put like that, however I believe everybody already understands the thought intuitively. Spain—this Spanish group and the custom of Spanish soccer extra usually—is usually teased for caring extra about ball possession and passing statistics than these widespread and unrefined actions like taking pictures and scoring. The caricature of Spain is a group with one goalkeeper and 10 midfielders who dart round in circles flicking the ball between each other, virtually oblivious to the truth that the ostensible object of the sport is to kick the ball into the online. (Not coincidentally, Spain began the match in opposition to Costa Rica with no conventional striker on the pitch and with a midfielder taking part in in protection.) If the joke about Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal was that they at all times tried to stroll the ball into the online, for Spain it might be that they don’t even know a web exists.
So to grasp why Wednesday’s match was such a triumph for Spain, you wouldn’t actually discover it in a compilation of the targets. As an alternative, it was in Sergio Busquets firing off dozens of first-time, three-yard passes with scary accuracy, at all times with the precisely appropriate pressure and placement, at all times hitting his teammate’s stronger foot. It was in Marco Asensio, a pure attacking midfielder dressing for this match as a striker (and not a false 9!), supporting the sport with passes and well-timed actions deep and large to take care of Spain’s distinctive mix of security and menace. It was in Pedri’s refined however profound affect, how he concurrently felt and responded to what the sport was asking for whereas additionally imposing his personal will on the proceedings when he noticed match, orchestrating the whole match with out as soon as taking part in a direct hand in both scoring or helping any of Spain’s targets. I do know they’re going to take this video down, however Pedri’s sport was so goddamn good that I’m going to incorporate these particular person highlights anyway:
Spain has had higher groups than this one and has after all performed and gained larger video games than this group-stage match in opposition to a wildly overmatched Costa Rica. Nonetheless, this was Spain at its peak Spainness, the belief of a nationwide id, and thus far probably the most completely spectacular single displaying at this World Cup in addition. Spain needs to be extremely pleased with this sport and this group, and it’s probably not even as a result of they scored seven targets and allowed none.