June 20, 2010

Of Flamenco & Chocolate.

Fernando Torres is a hottie! While I say this with certainty, I was uncertain of the outcome of this game. I mean, Spain were favourites! Was I brave enough to support the underdogs? Daddy said that as far as bets were concerned in the Spain-Switzerland game, it was 17:1. With the odds favouring Spain... obviously. They were undoubtedly the best team on paper. Strangely, Premiership's best keeper, striker and midfielder weren’t included in the opening line-up. This was an early omen, to me. As I sat glued to my television, munching popcorn to drown out the buzzing of vuvuzelas, a sea of blood red fan jerseys were prominent among a minority of red & white, I wondered if the Nadal-Federer competition had any effect on this match.

The game started off with Spain commanding possession. The Swiss were barely able to get their hands…er… feet on the ball. Spain played marvelously, with clean cut moves, great presence of mind and minimal fouling. But without Torres, the Spanish strike-force struggled to get through the iron wall that was the Swiss defense. 

Many a joke has been made about the Swiss side and how their defence is just like their cheese: full of holes. All of that was squashed by their praiseworthy defending and efficient tackling. Spanish Strikers Villa and Silva worked tirelessly to convert crosses into goals, but all in vain. Spain’s mastermind midfielders; Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso & Andres Iniesta were held to their spots and were marked so consciously that Iniesta was left nearly injured by the end of it. Swiss defender, Philippe Senderos who did get injured was substituted early in the game, with rumors that he may be out of the tournament for good. In habitual WC 2010 fashion, neither team scored in the first half, which was extremely disappointing as España fans were anticipating an early goal (or two.) But with the ringing of the half-time bell, I was eagerly hoping for the introduction of Fabregas, Torres and the prodigy Jesús Navas to liven up the game.

The second half began, with a defiant approach towards the goal by the Spaniards. They seemed more determined and this notched my hopes by many knots. Spain now had 80% possession and it looked like they were going to score any moment! Phew! Was I slapped back into reality, barely minutes after this with sights of Eren Derdiyok bolting towards the goalpost, with Pique and Puyol at his heels; but blocked by keeper Iker Casillas and resulting in a tumble of red & white. Just when I’d thought that Spain’s defence had come through for them did I notice an ashen faced Gelson Fernandes, the young Cape-Verde born Swiss midfielder, emerging from the pile of determined defenders, with triumph (and maybe minor disbelief) etched on his face. Spanish fans and players alike watched in shock as the Swiss celebrated, their vuvuzelas screeching in the background. Spanish Coach, Vicente Del Bosque knew he needed to make amends and fast! He wasted no time bringing Torres & Navas on, but the damage was festering. Many sighs and cheers welcomed Liverpool’s El Nino, but his dampened performance didn’t bring about too many butterflies or blessings. Alonso’s brilliant attempt at a 30 yard goal (the first of its kind seen at the WC, thanks to the Jabulani) went unrewarded with the ball ricocheting off the post. Derdiyok almost doubled the score for the Swiss in the 74th minute with almost a similar shot at the goal.

It was tragic to watch Spain, who dominated play almost entirely, stopped short of scoring, thanks to a highly motivated Diego Benaglio who made 5 spectacular saves in the entirety of the game, and even got carded eventually for apparent wastage of time. With five minutes extra-time, every fan in red cheered hoarsely for an equalizer, at the very least. Nothing. Spain was scoreless, with the Swiss team ready to run out onto the field at the full-time whistle. They exploded with cheers, almost as if they’d won the WC! But it was a very well-deserved victory, after all. Who could blame them for redeeming their glory, when the whole world pitted against them for Spain’s win! This would take them far, and they knew it!

As for our Spanish bulls, their Red Fury had just been dissolved into colourless nonentity.

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