Pressing Issues: Tiki-taka, trophies and football dominance – that’s Spain in a nutshell

2014-05-06 10:00

Just like Hannibal in the hit 1980s television series The A-Team, I, too, just love it when a plan comes together. Case in point: Spanish football.

No one can deny that Spain is at the pinnacle in all facets of world football. Watching Real Madrid demolish German giants and reigning champions Bayern Munich 4-0 in the Champions League semifinal on Tuesday night was something else.

Little did we know that was just a starter – the main course was still to be served the following night in the form of a superb display by the workhorse that is Atlético Madrid.

The Spanish La Liga leaders dismantled Chelsea 3-1 on Wednesday night and these results mean we will witness an all-Spanish Champions League final at Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal, on May 24.

But wait, it gets better. What this also means is that by the time the 2014 Fifa World Cup kicks off in Brazil next month, the World Cup, European Championship and the Champions League trophies will all be sitting pretty in one country: Spain.

All this success has not happened in a vacuum. After failing to lift the World Cup on several occasions, Spanish football authorities put their heads together to devise a development plan that would take their football to another level.

The result was a uniform approach to the game that is instilled in players from a young age. It’s little wonder they grow up to be masters of the Spanish style of soccer.

It is not by coincidence that even their junior teams are dominating the global stage. Barcelona – a terrible example to use right now given their latest results – are the true exponents of the style that has come to be known as tiki-taka, which would go something like kamina-kawena (mine-yours) in Fanagalo.

This pattern sees players exchange passes in such a way that opponents are worn down as they chase shadows. Before they know it, the ball is in the back of the net.

Many thought Chelsea had got a good result by playing to a goalless draw against Atlético in their away leg in Madrid last week.

And when the English side drew first blood on Wednesday – through Spanish striker Fernando Torres, as fate would have it – some thought it was curtains for Diego Simeone’s charges.

Little did they know Atlético’s never-say-die spirit would see them snatch an equaliser just before half-time and go on to score two unanswered goals in the second stanza.

And those who believed the myth that English soccer was the best in Europe must have woken up to the reality that that’s just what it is, a myth.

The hype around English soccer is bolstered by the fans in that country, who always tip themselves as favourites every time the World Cup comes around and conveniently forget that their last triumph was just two years short of half a century ago.

Nations such as Spain, Germany and even Italy and France (sometimes), keep reminding us the country that brought us The Beautiful Game is lagging far behind when it comes to the modern development of the sport.

No matter what happens in the final, Simeone, a great player in his day whose coaching credentials are still to be fully tested, deserves the accolades.

The Argentinian has taken a bunch of unknowns – except for prolific goal-scorer Diego Costa, who has netted 27 times in 33 outings – and turned them into world-beaters.

They are untouchable at the summit of La Liga and only a disaster of catastrophic proportions will see them miss out on claiming the club’s first league title since the 1995/96 season.

And this was done without breaking the bank to buy top players.

It has been an interesting and exciting La Liga season and one has marvelled at the way Atlético have shown their richer cousins, Real Madrid and Barcelona, a clean pair of heels.

These are some of the things that make us fall in love with this game over and over again. Many nations, including England and South Africa, can learn a thing or two from what Spain has done. Way to go!

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