NETHERLANDS 2-0 SPAIN
Spain pay for their experimentation
With an unrecognisable starting line-up Spain threw the game away in 3 minutes, from 12’ to 15’. Vitolo and Juanmi made their debuts.
It’s hard to take pot-shots at a side that have given us so much and find themselves in a period of reconstruction, with no happy ending, because we’ll never be as great (and small) at the same time. The truth, however, can’t be avoided: Spain no longer have anything special. Not fury*, nor overwhelming passing. This lack of clarity condemns us, as do friendlies. After being beaten by France and German, we’ve fallen to Holland. Once more, we turned a friendly into a debutantes’ ball. Again, we didn’t think about the loss of prestige, the deflating of the fans’ enthusiasm, the damage it does to us. We went out in the Amsterdam Arena with a test XI, with no desire for revenge. Of the starters, only Piqué was on the pitch for the 5-1 World Cup drubbing.
We’ve gone back to being a team who have inherited their traumas. As Spain were for decades before. Back then we mixed defeatism with bad luck. We forgot all that during the golden period, but quickly remembered it again in Brazil, when Holland thrashed us without doing anything out of the ordinary. They didn’t do anything out of the ordinary tonight either. The first goal left us cold and we were frozen for the rest of the first half. That coldness is more disheartening than the defeat. Losing, we waited, sluggish to put pressure on. The extremely limited Dutch defence was something to be grateful for.
The two goals underlined our lack of passion. For the first, De Vrij got ahead of Piqué and two metres above him; for the second, Klaasesen shot twice, under no pressure, until he’d finally beaten De Gea. There was no response either until Isco came off the left wing to run the play. The improvement wasn’t enough. Holland retreated and enjoyed the scoreboard. Blind and Depay between them were enough to make their side appear superior. The latter was the best player on the pitch, extraordinary, almost arrogant, with an air of Laurie Cunningham. And just 21 years old.
At the start of the second half, Del Bosque brought Silva and Vitolo on for Pedro and Isco. The substitutions make more sense if we understand the protocol. It appears that the minutes are shared out in order to avoid problems with the players’ clubs. It’s no way to approach things, nor any way to start a comeback. After a while, with it still 2-0, Morata, Ramos and San José took the place of Juanmi, Mario Suárez and Piqué. Finally, Iniesta came on (for Cazorla) and we discovered that the Dutch fans fear him more than the Grand Duke of Alba (known as the Iron Duke in the Netherlands). A shame we didn’t take advantage of that either.
At the end Spain were more energetic and came close to scoring. Vitolo had chances and Morata also came close. Holland shut up shop without a hint of shame and what Spain did in the remaining minutes will give us some consolation through to June. The attitude changed, we could have scored, we dominated for a long spell, we were denied a penalty. There are as many ways of reading the game as their are opinions. The brutal truth though is that our name remains the same, but we’re different.