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    The Final: Spain v Italy

    The Guardian football writers really should know better. Two of them have nominated Balotelli as their player of the tournament, only Pirlo and Iniesta were nominated more.

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      The Final: Spain v Italy

      dalliance wrote: The Guardian football writers really should know better. Two of them have nominated Balotelli as their player of the tournament, only Pirlo and Iniesta were nominated more.
      That is hilarious. Not a huge surprise, though. The Guardian's football coverage has gone to shit in the last few years.

      Without looking, I'll guess that the two Guardian hacks who nominated Balotelli were Richard Williams and Dominic Fifield.

      EDIT: apologies to both of them. It was Scott Murray and Paul Wilson.

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        The Final: Spain v Italy

        http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/02/reaction-to-spains-victory/

        Very nice quotes from all featured players and coaches. Del Bosque was especially respectful.

        Spain Coach Vicente del Bosque
        “We had an extraordinary match but don’t underestimate Italy – they just had no luck. Everything went our way tonight. Italy had one fewer player, one less day of rest and they tried throughout but couldn’t get into the game. We played our own game and were faithful to what we’ve done over the years.”

        “I don’t think there’s one way of playing football. You have to find a way to score. We have very intelligent players who we can trust. It’s a balanced team and we have total confidence in our players.”

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          The Final: Spain v Italy

          It should also be mentioned that Spain pulled this off without Villa, their all-time leading scorer and Puyol, who's only been one of the best center-backs on the planet over the last 4 years. Put those two back on the roster and it's even more ridiculous.

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            The Final: Spain v Italy

            I must say though, I am rather amazed that a defence that has frequently featured casillas, ramos, pique, and arbeloa etc has managed to keep 10 clean sheets in 10 knockout games over the last three tournaments. The teams they play for usually leak one goal somewhere along the line, and they keep fewer clean sheets than you'd think
            You have a more coloured view of these players than most though which perhaps explains your struggle to understand why they have been so good.

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              The Final: Spain v Italy

              [b]"Analogue Bubblebath II"

              Originally posted by Tony C wrote:[/b
              Well, you could say the same about Pirlo.
              No, you could not. Pirlo was fantastic in all of Italy's games up to tonight, and would still be my pick for man of the tournament -- no Spanish or German midfielder or forward excelled consistently for as long in the competition as he did. Balotelli managed one good display in the entire tournament, and his two goals against Germany (which he stuck away with real style) were both very straightforward chances. If he'd squandered the second one, in particular, heads would have been buried in hands all over the continent.
              Indeed, as you say, Pirlo was fantastic in all Italy's games up to tonight.

              The context of my post was that both Pirlo and Balotelli had underperformed in the final when set against their semi-final showing. I wasn't talking about the tournament in general.

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                The Final: Spain v Italy

                Iker is pretty cool.

                Casillas convinces ref to cut injury time short out of "respect for Italy".

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                  The Final: Spain v Italy

                  That and the Del Bosque quotes,also above, are excellent.

                  Casillas also seemed to console every single Italian player before joining any celebratory huddle.

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                    The Final: Spain v Italy

                    When I was growing up a player gaining 100 caps for his country was a semi-mythical occurrence. It is much more common these days certainly, I never thought we would see the day that a player could have 100 wins at international level.

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                      The Final: Spain v Italy

                      RE: Pirlo, Michael Cox included an illuminating graphic in his match report over at Zonal Marking.

                      The gist of it is that Pirlo actually attempted and completed more passes against Spain in the final than he did in the match in the group stage. However, he did so from much deeper positions and they were almost entirely square-balls. In the group stage match he had 4 long diagonal balls into the final third, including the assist to Di Natale. In the final, he didn't play a single ball into the final third.

                      Spain did a really good job closing him down -- I noticed Xavi was taking most of the responsibility, playing a bit higher than he had previously and harrying him whenever he got the ball; the rest of the Spanish midfielders also took their turns coming out and marking him whenever he got the ball and obviously the instructions were to press Pirlo and only Pirlo, especially in the case of the fullbacks, they were happy to let Abate have all the possession in the world.

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                        The Final: Spain v Italy

                        There was a subtle difference between the two games though. In the first when Italy played with a five man midfield you had Pirlo and De Rossi both in front of the defence and thus two option to bring the ball out.

                        In the Final the midfield was the diamond four and De Rossi was the sort of shuttle player on the left hand side. He was playing ahead of Pirlo and this put much more onus on Pirlo as the creative hub. Spain nailed him, Xavi did a good job on him which was maybe overlooked when you generally rave about Xavi's more creative side.

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                          The Final: Spain v Italy

                          Oh yeah, Cox also agrees with Harry on here in that maybe switching back to a 3-5-2 might have been a good idea as that would have also pushed Balzaretti and Abate forward and closed down Spain's fullbacks, who were largely their only source of width, as well having caused Harry to have a spontaneous orgasm when the announcer said "it appears that Italy have switched to a 3-5-2 with De Rossi as the sweeper".

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                            The Final: Spain v Italy

                            You have a more coloured view of these players than most though which perhaps explains your struggle to understand why they have been so good.

                            Dalliance, real madrid and barcelona just don't keep as many clean sheets as you'd think. the point is that these players aren't iron-willed clean sheet monsters. For instance this season real madrid conceded the first goal 10 times, coming back to win 9 times. Frequently by a huge number of goals. That's very different to what spain are like.

                            This season real madrid kept 14 clean sheets in the league. The average number of clean sheets they keep every season for the six years of spain's dominance is 14. Barcelona have managed an average of 17. The Comparative figures for Man utd are 19, chelsea 18, liverpool 17. and it has to be pointed out that those chelsea and liverpool numbers are seriously depressed by two unimpressive seasons. But even last season Liverpool managed real madrid's 14 clean sheets.

                            Basically it's quite a leap for players who keep clean sheets 37% of the time (real madrid) and 45% of the time (barcelona) to the 13 clean sheets in 19 championship games (68%) and 10 out of 10 in knockouts.

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                              The Final: Spain v Italy

                              Jah Tomaszewski wrote: Their securing of three successive trophies is a remarkable (and unarguably unique) achievement
                              Unarguably unique? Sorry to sound like a broken record, but Uruguay beat them to it by 88 years (1923 and '24 South American championships, 1924 Olympics). Here at least, the fact that there's a cycle of four years rather than one between the first and third wins makes it more impressive (as does the fact that both the '23 and '24 Sudamericanos were held in Uruguay).

                              satchmo76 wrote:
                              saying Italy, had they won on Sunday, would have been clearly more successful than Uruguay (also world champions on four occasions, and 15-times champions of their continent) is incredibly Euro-centric.
                              Uruguay have only won the World Cup twice. I qualified my original post by saying that "prior to 2010", Uruguay's last significant World Cup was 1970. I don't dispute their current 2nd place (I believe they would give a tough game to anyone except Spain, so fair enough) but it comes after 40 years of being below the top flight.
                              None of which changes the fact that the discussion was about things teams have won in their history. Italy would have had four world championships and two continental ones if they'd won yesterday*. That's less impressive than four world championships and fifteen continental ones. Even if weighting's applied to take into account the sheer greater number of South American championships that have been played, I'm still unconvinced that one Euro is worth seven-and-a-half Campeonatos Sudamericanos/Copas América.

                              *I'm not sure where Italy's 1936 Olympic win fits into this. The World Cup was very much the world championship by this point, so I think giving Italy five world championships on that basis would be daft, but I'd assume that the OFT was still being taken seriously at that stage, although Wikipedia's not very clear on how strong squads were.

                              ursus arctos wrote: Iker is pretty cool.

                              Casillas convinces ref to cut injury time short out of "respect for Italy".
                              Patronising.

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                                The Final: Spain v Italy

                                Unarguably unique? Sorry to sound like a broken record, but Uruguay beat them to it by 88 years (1923 and '24 South American championships, 1924 Olympics).
                                Uruguay's achievement was a very good one indeed, but I'm afraid the Olympics (even back then) doesn't stand up to a World Cup.

                                In any case, my entire point was that I don't think Spain 2012 are 'the best ever'.

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                                  The Final: Spain v Italy

                                  uruguay's tournament record for a country with the population of the republic of Ireland is extraordinary. But they could have walked to the two world cups they won, when everyone else took weeks to arrive. Winning the olympics was also a fairly big deal at the time, but you should be a little careful about inferring too much from that.

                                  If you were to look at the first six olympic games, you'd think that the irish were the most dominant athletic race in the world, as they made up a huge part of the USA and british teams, and they dominated the throwing and the jumping events. (seven out of nine gold medals for the hammer between 1900 and 1932 and in 1908 they won gold, silver and bronze)

                                  Actually when I was reading about niels bohr, I found out that he and his brother were handy footballers, and harald played at the 1908 olympics. There were only 6 entrants so some countries fielded two teams, and denmark beat france B 9-0 and France A 17-1 in the semis before losing 2-0 to Team GB in the final. Does that look like a world cup to you?

                                  Then again Italy's first two world cups were, er, government assisted. But I think that Uruguay's current position as the best of the rest after spain seems fair enough to me. Fair dues to them. They are a tiny country, but they are very good at the whole international football thing.

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                                    The Final: Spain v Italy

                                    Dalliance, real madrid and barcelona just don't keep as many clean sheets as you'd think. the point is that these players aren't iron-willed clean sheet monsters. For instance this season real madrid conceded the first goal 10 times, coming back to win 9 times. Frequently by a huge number of goals. That's very different to what spain are like.

                                    This season real madrid kept 14 clean sheets in the league. The average number of clean sheets they keep every season for the six years of spain's dominance is 14. Barcelona have managed an average of 17. The Comparative figures for Man utd are 19, chelsea 18, liverpool 17. and it has to be pointed out that those chelsea and liverpool numbers are seriously depressed by two unimpressive seasons. But even last season Liverpool managed real madrid's 14 clean sheets.
                                    Hang on here, on the AVB thread you ignored clean sheets to quote actual goals conceded but here you want to use clean sheets as the barometer?

                                    In the past 3 seasons from the same number of League games Real Madrid conceded 100 goals, Man United 98 and Barcelona a mere 74.

                                    I think that suggests that the Madrid defence is pretty good and the Barcelona defence has been fantastic.

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                                      The Final: Spain v Italy

                                      Hang on here, on the AVB thread you ignored clean sheets to quote actual goals conceded but here you want to use clean sheets as the barometer?

                                      Because here we're talking about how likely it is that a player is going to be involved in keeping a clean sheet. In the other instance we were comparing the relative success of different tactical systems. Different measures are appropriate, like goals conceded, goals scored, points won etc.

                                      The point here is that When casillas, arbeloa and ramos play for real madrid, they lose concentration and leak the odd goal in games that they frequently go on to win by large amounts. This was also true of barcelona in the recent past.

                                      However when they play for spain, the likelihood that they will keep a clean sheet soars.

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                                        The Final: Spain v Italy

                                        You can question elements about earlier World Cup wins and how nations might be advantaged or disadvantaged, but I think it's a lot harder to make the case for Olympic titles being especially relevant and deserving to be treated as anything valuable in the broader sense.

                                        I mean the amateur player qualification criteria was so abstract and the whole thing was abused by the eastern Europeans for whom officially all players were amateurs. Even the ones who played successfully against western professionals in European club competition.

                                        In the 8 Olympics from 1952 through to 1980, 21 of the 24 medals available including all the golds were won by Eastern European nations.

                                        There have now been 7 further Olympics since they permitted professional players to play and Eastern European sides have won just 3 medals.

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                                          The Final: Spain v Italy

                                          I think it's only really the pre world cup ones that are up for discussion dalliance, but even they're a bit ropy. it's very difficult to make any comparisons with international tournaments in the past where some teams would bring a barrel of citrus fruit with them so they wouldn't get scurvy on the voyage to the game.

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                                            The Final: Spain v Italy

                                            In that case we might as well go the whole hog and strip Italy of their two pre-war titles. Let's start counting in 1954.

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                                              The Final: Spain v Italy

                                              Casillas wasn't patronising.

                                              He didn't know the cameras were on him.

                                              Almost every Italian comment was appreciative.

                                              'Respect for Italia' does sound like a AOR Indie Rock Band, however:

                                              48 Year Old Dad Who Grew Up On The Clash Fest:

                                              Arctic Monkeys
                                              Radiohead
                                              Respeto por Italia

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                                                The Final: Spain v Italy

                                                Uruguay's win in 1924 is slightly ropey, in that the competition wasn't that great. That said, the South Americans did have to travel by boat and then trousered the competition, including beating France 5-1.

                                                The 1928 win is unquestionable, IMO. All of Europe's leading teams were there, the Argentinians were there, there were stars all over the place, and they won. It was basically a proto-World Cup. They're more than entitled to count that if you ask me. The Brits weren't there, but pig-headed insularity shouldn't be held against the Uruguayans.

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                                                  The Final: Spain v Italy

                                                  The Awesome Berbaslug!!! wrote: You have a more coloured view of these players than most though which perhaps explains your struggle to understand why they have been so good.

                                                  Dalliance, real madrid and barcelona just don't keep as many clean sheets as you'd think. the point is that these players aren't iron-willed clean sheet monsters. For instance this season real madrid conceded the first goal 10 times, coming back to win 9 times. Frequently by a huge number of goals. That's very different to what spain are like.

                                                  This season real madrid kept 14 clean sheets in the league. The average number of clean sheets they keep every season for the six years of spain's dominance is 14. Barcelona have managed an average of 17. The Comparative figures for Man utd are 19, chelsea 18, liverpool 17. and it has to be pointed out that those chelsea and liverpool numbers are seriously depressed by two unimpressive seasons. But even last season Liverpool managed real madrid's 14 clean sheets.

                                                  Basically it's quite a leap for players who keep clean sheets 37% of the time (real madrid) and 45% of the time (barcelona) to the 13 clean sheets in 19 championship games (68%) and 10 out of 10 in knockouts.
                                                  Real Madrid and Barcelona can 100% guarantee that, even if they play totally open, they will score more goals than the opposition. With Spain in knock-out football this figure might drop to only 90%. Hence the change of strategy.

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                                                    The Final: Spain v Italy

                                                    Pirlo was fantastic in all of Italy's games up to tonight, and would still be my pick for man of the tournament -- no Spanish or German midfielder or forward excelled consistently for as long in the competition as he did
                                                    Yes, I reckon he should have got player of the tournament over Iniesta

                                                    I agree with jv over Casillas as well

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