5:00 PM GMT
Graham HunterSpain writer
- Graham Hunter is simply a Barcelona-based freelance writer for ESPN.com who specializes successful La Liga and the Spanish nationalist team.
DOHA, Qatar -- The past 4 times Bayern Munich person played Barcelona successful the Champions League, the aggregate people has been 11-0 to the Bundesliga side. From that, you mightiness gully the decision that Spain person nary accidental successful their World Cup clash with against Germany connected Sunday.
Why? Because, from those Bayern teams, Germany manager Hansi Flick tin tract Manuel Neuer, Josh Kimmich, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala, Leon Goretzka, Leroy Sane, Niklas Sule and Thomas Muller astatine Al Bayt Stadium. And due to the fact that successful Luis Enrique's squad this play you'll find Jordi Alba, Eric Garcia, Sergio Busquets, Ansu Fati, Pedri, Gavi, Alejandro Balde and Ferran Torres -- each of whom person been battered by German might, menace and musculus implicit the past 2 seasons.
Those 4 matches were dramatic, clear-cut demonstrations of power, precision, speed, tallness and sporting aggression. And we're not adjacent counting the 8-2 Bayern triumph implicit the Blaugrana successful the 2020-21 quarterfinal. It began to consciousness similar German shot was actively trying to stamp the beingness retired of Spain's much delicate, possession-based, technically delightful artistry.
So comprehensively was the pick of Spain demolished, astatine nine level, that you tin stake Pedri, Gavi, Busquets, Alba et al. knew precisely however Costa Rica felt erstwhile they near the Al Thumama transportation connected Wednesday -- thrashed 7-0. After specified magnificent effervescence from La Roja, against opponents antecedently famed for their antiaircraft organisation, 2 questions instantly arise: is this signifier transferable to the important Group E lucifer against Germany? And, should their fans interest that newfound complacency and cockiness tin corrode Spain's readiness for a titanic battle?
Last question first. I was successful the subordinate tunnel, working, erstwhile Luis Enrique's victorious broadside came disconnected the pitch. No shouting, nary glee, nary boisterous celebrations -- if you'd not seen the lucifer oregon the scoreboard you'd person thought it was half-time with things balanced astatine 0-0. Not a hint of overexuberance oregon swagger. Faces set, superior mode -- the ambiance was: Job done, what's next?
One of Luis Enrique's contiguous analytical reactions was to say: "Look, we mightiness beryllium beaten successful the adjacent lucifer but it volition not, nether immoderate circumstance, beryllium due to the fact that we've relaxed aft this result." It's worthy believing him too. The 52-year-old Asturian has woven a magic spell connected his personnel. Spain's footballers are convinced astir his plan, taxable to his rules, are infused with his "attack, press, ambition" philosophy. In information they are, susurration it, truly enjoying themselves portion domiciled astatine Qatar University.
Whether the brutal demolition of Costa Rica says circumstantial things astir Spain overcoming the immense physical, diversion and attitudinal advantages which Germany's Bayern halfway person precocious enforced connected Spain's Barca contingent is simply a abstracted matter. Every lucifer is simply a caller beingness of detail, mentality, form, luck and tactics.
However 1 happening is crystal clear: the throbbing, upbeat, evangelical connection which has been thumping retired of the Spain grooming HQ since they got present past week was telling the truth. I'll stock immoderate of the statements we've been fixed connected and disconnected the record:
"We're a set of brothers."
"The ambiance is spectacular."
"We are a radical of friends enjoying ourselves and pulling for 1 another."
"There's nary mode that this radical volition fto everyone down..."
I can't overemphasise the shimmering hum of ambition, commitment, attitude, determination.
Now, bash each of those feelings negate the information that Spain are a young, earthy radical who deficiency an outright, punishing extremity scorer successful the benignant of Fernando Torres, David Villa oregon adjacent Raul successful his day? Not connected their own. But not lone are the bulk of Spain's players hitting signifier conscionable astatine the close clip they look fresh, speedy of limb and caput genuinely relishing the mode successful which their manager offers them state to spell retired and play beautifully.
It's a searing representation for maine that successful the days gathering up to Spain's 2010 World Cup triumph Xavi stopped the FIFA referee briefing which was being conducted by Horacio Elisondo and insisted: "Enough of each this astir the mode you'll enforce the rules -- spell and archer Sepp Blatter that the pitches are poor, that the writer needs to beryllium chopped and watered and that he's giving a premium to defensive, boring football."
That mentation of La Roja wasn't conscionable successful South Africa to win, they wanted to attack, to entertain, to marque shot look beautiful. This year's radical yearn for that too.
Vicente del Bosque's squad won the 2010 World Cup with the lowest extremity full successful history, slogging their mode crossed churned-up, slow-playing surfaces and, generally, playing against either antiaircraft oregon thuggish rivals (semifinal opponents Germany excluded.) Back then, Germany manager Joachim Low adored the Spanish verve, technicality, imaginativeness and passionateness for passing. German football, successful the ensuing years, maintained its sensation for tall, hard, aggressive, accelerated footballers but relentlessly added amended method skills, amended tactical appreciation. At nine level, astatine least, the borrowing of the Spanish template, portion blending it with accepted Teutonic values has worked a treat.
Cut to contiguous again and Spain are backmost successful that fledgling authorities of wanting to execute with thrills, skills, daring, incessant passing speed. Luis Enrique has fto them disconnected the leash. They genuinely each believe, arsenic Xavi vehemently stated 12 years ago, that the World Cup should beryllium a spot of entertainment, extravagance, elegance... a spot wherever dreamers tin imagination and inspiration is injected into kids watching each implicit successful the world. Most of the different sides look blessed to slope connected nary worse than a 0-0 and anticipation for a fortunate precocious extremity oregon two. That cognition would marque Spain's main players vomit with disgust.
What was absorbing astir however La Roja treated Costa Rica was the mode successful which adjacent with three, 4 oregon 5 goals tucked past Keylor Navas they continued to spell for the throat. Not conserving energy, nary subconscious ft disconnected the state and nary coasting retired the past 15 minutes. Spain continued to show precisely the ambition and full committedness to attacking which Luis Enrique has been promising. If they are 1-0 up with 5 minutes near successful a large lucifer aboriginal this tournament, past expect them to bash precisely the aforesaid thing.
"Don't get maine wrong, our occupation is to triumph truthful I'm not going to cull a triumph wherever we haven't played well" helium told maine with a laughter the different day. "But we'll ne'er dice of fear, if we ever person to spell down it'll beryllium with ambition, connected the beforehand ft and trying to bushed whoever we meet."
I emotion that benignant of talk, peculiarly from those who past locomotion the walk. Did you ticker them? Didn't they airy up an different overly cautious, overly dull World Cup? Now, however, comes a antithetic benignant of test.
Germany are the proverbial wounded animal. Twice over. Were they to suffer connected Sunday, there's a bully accidental that they are retired of a World Cup radical signifier for the 2nd clip successful 4 years. Utter and implicit catastrophe for Die Mannschaft. Moreover, they volition understandably beryllium seeking cold-blooded revenge for the 6-0 thrashing they took disconnected Spain the past clip these 2 sides met successful the UEFA Nations League backmost successful November 2020. In fact, you'd anticipation Flick has prepared a bully Black Forest gateaux oregon immoderate different Bavarian delight with which to convey Luis Enrique prematch. That six-goal humiliation of Low's Germany successful Seville 2 years agone was the last straw for him and the 2014 World Cup-winning manager announced his withdrawal from the presumption a fewer months afterward. Flick got the job. Now it's all-in.
Another happening which stood retired astir Spain's heavenly 7 against Costa Rica was the mode successful which their manager is successful the zone. Marco Asensio has been treated similar a spare portion astatine Real Madrid this season, retired of declaration successful June and with lone 3 starts retired of a imaginable 21 matches truthful far. Yet he's named Spain's first-choice centre-forward and scores. Torres, subjugated by Ousmane Dembele's request to play connected the close astatine Barcelona, is restored to his earthy presumption and scores twice. Balde -- aged 18, a Barcelona B squad subordinate arsenic precocious arsenic August and called up by Spain arsenic a last-minute replacement -- comes connected and helps make a extremity with a sprint and dribble which ate up 2 thirds of the pitch. Welcome to the World Cup, kid. Dani Olmo, disconnected the backmost of a brutal fewer months retired injured, starts alternatively of Ansu Fati and not lone scores but gets the important opener and gives an assist, too. And Nico Williams, lone successful the squad since September, is brought in, assists the captious extremity to triumph successful Portugal and scope the Nations League semifinal past against Costa Rica and sets up Carlos Soler's extremity (all but 1 of La Roja's 5 subs either scored oregon created a extremity against Costa Rica.)
It each adds up to the information that, astatine the moment, Spain's manager appears to person the Midas touch. When the teams travel retired astatine the Al Bayt Stadium connected Sunday, Germany volition beryllium thinking: they tin bash what Bayern did to Barca, portion the Spanish players volition each beryllium sticking to the mantra: "In Luis Enrique we trust."
Whoever prevails, this is guaranteed to beryllium precisely the benignant of open, attacking and hopefully thrilling contention which this unusual World Cup requires.