Spain’s success a triumph for possession game

Spain’s football philosophy sounds simple – own the ball and you

will own the game – but it takes incredible skill to execute it the

way that has brought the Spaniards to their first World Cup

final.

No other team can match Spain’s ability to maintain possession

with precise, one-touch passes between constantly moving

players.

Against Germany, the system worked like clockwork, with Xavi

Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Pedro Rodriquez dominating possession

in the midfield.

“As soon as we got the ball, we felt comfortable,” Spain coach

Vicente del Bosque said.

His German counterpart Joachim Loew noticed that, too.

“They move the ball well and we couldn’t play the way we like

to play,” he said. “They had a certain dominance.”

Spain has inherited its style of play from the country’s

successful club teams, especially Barcelona and Real Madrid. After

winning the European Championship two years ago, Spain has now

showed that its system holds up even at the highest level. It has

only lost two of its last 54 matches, including a 1-0 defeat to

Switzerland in its World Cup opener.

Still, surprisingly few teams have emulated the Spanish

model.

“Not every nation can play this type of game,” said Oliver

Bierhoff, Germany’s assistant coach. “You have to have the players

for that (system).”

“Today you saw that Spain still has very excellent players who

can keep the ball,” he said. “We had a lack of precision in

passing. … They were today the better team.”

Obviously, moving the ball around doesn’t do you any good if you

don’t score. But Spain is blessed with a deadly striker in David

Villa, with five goals in the tournament, and another in Fernando

Torres, though he hasn’t found his form in South Africa.

It also has one of the world’s best goalkeepers in Iker

Casillas, giving the outfield players the calm they need to

patiently stick to their system, even when it doesn’t yield

immediate success.

Spain’s commitment to its style of play is unwavering.

Switzerland beat the Spaniards with a solid defense and rapid

counterattacks. But del Bosque’s team refused to change its ideas

of how football should be played, even when it struggled in the

quarterfinals against another defensive opponent, Paraguay.

“We live and die by those ideas,” Iniesta said. “We don’t

know any other way to play. So we’ll try to do the same in the

final and hopefully we’ll have the luck to win it.”