Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The opening match of Spain was supposed to be the easiest one – against Austria, theoretically, the weakest team in the group. Seemingly, Spain underestimated the opposition and thus out-tricked itself: the best strikers – Santillana, Juanito, and Quini – were missing. Austria was not going to surrender, on the contrary: they scored first in the 10th minute. Spain managed to equalize in the 21st minute, but winning the match was increasingly unlikely.

Ruben Cano denied again by Austrian goalkeeper Koncilia. It was 50 -50 at best, a gritty match, in which Spain showed determination, but lacked imagination. Quini eventually was fielded in the second half, but Austria looked more organized, fit, and a bit better. In the 79th minute Krankl scored and Spain was unable to equalize in the remaining time. It was all over again – Spain failed to win important game, failed to impress.

The next match – against Brazil – was all or nothing, but so it was for Brazil as well. Santillana and Juanito were starters this time, yet, Spain did not improve. One more tough match, fairly equal, fairly unattractive, a scoreless tie.
Fighting for the ball in midfield – the match in a nutshell. Along with problems in attack, there were defensive problems as well. Spain looked unsettled, Kubala somewhat incapable to chose the best eleven, although by now it was really objective problem: there was a limit to trying variations.

Slightly different squad started the match with Sweden. Spain was not yet eliminated, but a win was a must, and then all depended on the result between already qualified Austrians and Brazil. Unfortunately, Sweden had also a chance and the match was to be very tough. Sweden was weaker then usual, but this is a team always highly motivated and Spain had no advantage at all. Without looking better or even stronger, Spain managed to score the only goal of the game in the 76th minute.
Asensi, at the far left, scores, but there was no relief – Spain was kept on tiptoe to the end by the Swedes, and there was joy even at the final whistle: Brazil also won and Spain was eliminated.

Disappointment again and Spain left no lasting memories of her performance. None of her stars shined. None impressed. Nobody sorry seeing him going home early. Spain was clearly a team needing fundamental changes – conceptual changes of the whole Spanish football really. May be at the bottom of their hearts the Spaniards realized that – Kubala was not sacked may be because a mere change of coach was not going to change Spanish football. By 1978 Spain looked hopelessly outdated, stuck in the 1960s, perhaps the last country not embracing total football – especially when compared to Italy.