A scintillating Euro 2012 gave us a friendly reminder as to what to expect at the soon approaching 2014 World Cup; the European teams are the teams to beat. As the World watched, we pondered in unison, how do we beat a team that has created a style of soccer that tactically has no weaknesses in the Spanish side? And for that matter, how do we beat the rest of the european teams that encapsulate the essence of a juggernaut.
Spain has once again demonstrated that the “total football” style of play isn’t a theatrical display meant to glaze over your eyes in aesthetic appeal, but rather an unstoppable and clinical approach that guarantees victory. Spain possesses the ball for the majority of the game limiting both the number of opportunities their opposition will have to attack their goal as well as minimizing their own chances of having a defensive slip up. By forming triangles between their players, Spain creates an always-available passing lane that enables them to dictate the play of the game. In fact, it’s so efficient Spain doesn’t even need strikers to win games! Spain is an impenetrable force that conceded only a single goal during Euro 2012. They are my favorite to win it all in 2014, and if they do so, they’ll write themselves into history as the greatest team to ever play the sport.
Germany, even though they fell short of expectations, instilled fear into our hearts again as they showed signs oftheir West Germany days of prowess. They were quick, technical, well organized and always on the attack. With creative game changers such as Mesut Ozil and a rock solid holding midfielder in Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany has the necessary talent to beat any other team on any given day. However, their weaknesses lie in their attacking players. With struggling but talented Mario Gomez, a high profile striker in the international club game who seems to be unable to reproduce his club level success on the international level, and unpredictable Miroslav Klose, an aging veteran that excels on the international level, leaves Germany stuck in a good problem to have—the choice between two prolific goal scorers. If the combination works, don’t be surprised to see the 2014 trophy in their hands.
In the rear view mirror, a pesky and very talented Portugal team lurks in the shadows vying for their opportunityto break through. Portugal has now had two shots at Spain, one in the semifinals of the 2012 Euro and the other in the round of 16 at 2010 World Cup, and on both occasions come up short. Led by arguably the most talented player in the world right now, Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal is aching for revenge. Teeming with Portugal, Italy’s new, younger look holds promise for a good turn out at the 2014 World Cup. But don’t hold your breath, as aging Pirlo’s career reaches its crossroads, there is no successor in sight. In a game determined by the control of the midfield, Italy will have to look to its defensive nature and rely on counter attacks that rarely occur. In Portugal’s case, the future is bright, while Italy can only hope that they won’t have a repeat of the embarrassing showing they had at the 2010 World Cup.