The Pain of Spain

Last night, it was all over the TV news, and today it's hogging the headlines in the newspapers. Long faces, shaking heads, stunned disbelief. No, not the fact that the Spanish government has (allegedly) asked for a 250bn euro bail-out, and that our poor, deranged president described his country as "solvent, solid and strong" (they'd better cut down on his medication, or he's going to think he's president of Brazil next). No, I'm talking about the shock (for there is no other word) defeat of Spain - 1-0 by Switzerland, in case you hadn't heard - in its first World Cup match. Talk about getting off to a bad start. Here are a few statistics for you, in case you weren't aware of what a Very Big Deal this is, for (ecstatic) Swiss, (horrified) Spanish and (intrigued) other fans alike. No team has ever won the World Cup after losing its first game. This is the first time Switzerland have ever beaten Spain. It is only Spain's second defeat in three years and 49 matches. They arrived at the World Cup with a 100% qualification record (30 out of 30 points), the first team ever to achieve this. Despite all this, Spain have never managed to get past the quarter-finals in 60 years (a bit like our wee Andy Murray at Wimbledon). They are notorious as being underachievers at the World Cup. Displaying a case of extremely sour grapes, Spain's coach complained that Switzerland didn't deserve yesterday's surprise win, stating that "It's an excessive prize considering the football they displayed." Although Spain had possession for considerably more of the match than their opponents, it was Switzerland who dictated the pace, by forming a human barrier around the goal, with Spain tip-toeing around and trying to sneak past their superb defences, like a naughty child trying to get into the sweet shop guarded by an ogre, only to be kicked out unceremoniously again and again. As the Swiss coach admitted, "If you want to play an attacking game against Spain, you would lose by a big margin." So while it wasn't the most exciting of games - pass, cross, save, clear, pass (Spain could win a World Cup for passing, racking up a whopping 641, not that it did them much good) - it was very effective on the part of the Swiss. TV commentators described the Spanish team as "patient" and "loyal to their style." "Helpless" and "hemmed in", more like. and Even Torres, their star striker, along with Davids Silva and Villa (who both look like something off Operacion Triunfo with their cute faces and perfectly coiffed, shiny black hair), failed to set the stadium alight. So great was the disbelief on the part of some of my friends in England at the result, that a bizarre rumour/joke went round, as follows: the Swiss used the gold left over from the Second World War to pay off the Spanish national debt in return for them throwing the game. Football? Bribery? Spain? Economically up s*** creek? Hmmmm.
Blog published on 17 June 2010