Update: Chile score 2 minutes into the 2nd half. IT’S ON. VIVA FUTBOL!!!
So far. Even as we speak.
Spain are the European Champions. Playing far and away the best quality of football of any team in the tournament. (unless they’re being stomped on by the Swiss). In their last 50 games, they have won 45, drawn 3 and lost 2. They are THAT good.
And Chile is giving as good as they get. (well, almost). Most teams are given the Great Go-around by the Spanish tiki-taka, with opponents left with loose-hanging jaws, glazed eyes and scratching heads as the ball pings here, there, everywhere and back here in maze one-touch/many-move football. Most teams are left chasing shadows, then the ball and finally the game.
Not this game. As I write, for every smooth flowing move Spain put together, Chile make one of their own. While lacking the cirque-du-soleil synchronicity of the spaniards, the Chileans have asked very very hard questions of the spanish defense, with no little skill and poetical football of their own.
This game so far, has been a glorious victory for the aesthetics and beauty of football. After the brawl / wrestling match to which Brazil and Portugal reduced their own game, this game has been truly magnificent. From a series of back-heels and dummies from the Chileans in the opening minutes of play (which was all Chile), a magnificent almost-goal spoon at Casillas’ far post, to a beautiful dinked pass by Iniesta from practically under THREE defenders into the feet of a speeding Xavi (I think, it’s hard to track who’s run where on that team) to Torres’ terrific runs in the opening 10 minutes to of course, the goals.
At the end of the first half, justice has been done. With very little to choose between them, Chile have been slightly the more cynical team, with more hard tackles, a few dives and just a little more effort to disrupt their opponents rather than play their own game. Spain have been more potent attack. While probably having had less time in threatening areas, when they have attacked, they have looked a lot more ominous of the two sides.
A word on the goals. The chilean keeper was perfectly justified in coming, as Torres had smoked the last man comprehensively in a foot race. Sheer bad luck, his well-done clearance lands at the feet of the most lethal goalscorer in the tournament. That does not take away from Villa’s MAGNIFICENT finish.The second goal? poetry. that is all.
Brickbats and bouquets. Applause to Gerard Pique for being a defensive titan so far. Brickbats for the completely daft referree for the red card.
Anyhoo, on to the 2nd half. All to play for. GAME ON.