Monday, June 30, 2008

Tapas'an Out

Four years ago, Greece stuffed a thick, sloppy souvlaki down the footy world's throat with its 1-0 European final victory over the high-flying Portuguese. While yesterday's 1-0 victory for Spain over Germany was far-less shocking, the two sides achieved their glory through flawlessly executed tactics. Otto Rehhagel's Greek side held their opponents scoreless through the 2004 knockout stages by playing numbing, impenetrable, defense. Spain held their opponents scoreless through the 2008 knockout stages by completely dominating the shit out of the ball with their endless one-touch passing through the midfield.

Oftentimes, as they would pass and pass and pass in the midfield, like concertgoers at an Allman Brothers concert, it seemed as if they had no intent to penetrate, like President Slick Willie carefully avoiding "it" during his intern liaisons. But then just as suddenly, after alternately lulling their opponents to sleep or driving them bonkers with frustration, one of their midfielders, invariably named Xavi, would thread a perfect through-ball for one of their speedy strikers, either El Nino (spanish for Dolphin-Boy) or David "Getting More Illa Than The Thrilla in" Villa.

Torres' match-winner, scored in this fashion, was one for the ages. Philipp Lahm was exposed as a tits-up defender in the Turkey game, and it was his poor play in cutting off Torres' access to the ball that cost David Hasselhoff and his countryman a chance to exult in an 8th major championship (three World Cups, three Euros, One hell of a good-looking man). Torres' raw reacharound on Lahm will be the subject of study in saunas from Christopher Street to the Castro for years to come.

The end, inevitable when a game is not back-and-forth, was anticlimactic; unless, of course, you're eating paella as we speak. For me, the tournament peaked with the Holland-Russia quarterfinal, a game worthy of any final of any tournament in any year. That game encapsulated every trait that made this tournament so entertaining, two surprising teams with more speed than lower east side cocaine playing aggressive footy and exchanging the lead twice.

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