Spain continues to lack a Plan B when faced with defensive teams
"I don't know." That was what Swiss center back
It wasn't just del Bosque either -- the run stretched right back to an
Which is more than could be said for Switzerland. If Spain were 4/1 to win the World Cup according to the bookies, Switzerland were 175/1. The Swiss had qualified, sure, but the teams that failed to get through their qualifying group were Luxembourg, Israel, Latvia and Moldova. Hardly giants of the European game. At home against Luxembourg they had even managed to lose 2-1. And as Senderos admitted, half the players can't even communicate with each other -- the country is divided between German, French and Italian speakers.
Only, it turns out that Senderos did know how to beat Spain. "All you can do against them is run and run, defend well, sit deep and hope to catch them on the break," he said, by way of excuse. Thing is, it wasn't an excuse, it was a game plan. That is pretty much exactly how they beat Spain Wednesday -- in what must rank as one of the greatest World Cup upsets ever.
This defeat was faintly absurd. Well over 60 percent of the possession, 23 shot attempts and the goal happens like that? What, some are asking, is the point of pretty passing if a prosaic punt does the trick?
Well, a prosaic punt and a spot of slapstick. A long goal kick by the Swiss, nodded down by forward
It's tempting to write it off as an accident --which, of course, it was. But in a way it wasn't either -- even if the Swiss goal should have been played out to a soundtrack of drum rolls and cymbal crashes.
The Swiss have now gone over eight hours without conceding a goal, and while Spain had lost only once in almost 50 games, that one defeat came rather like this one did. On the break against a well-organized, aggressive, fast team. For Barcelona fans -- and the style that Spain have adopted is, with
Because, like Barcelona, while Spain were dominant, they were also wasteful and worryingly toothless. There were few genuinely clear chances. Of Spain's 23 shots, only eight were on target.
Not that it was all about Spain. Because Switzerland, like Inter and so many teams at this World Cup (and in a way it is a pity), appeared to find a way to counteract a more talented team. A draw would have been brilliant for the Swiss. The winning goal was a bonus.
For Spain it was a kick in the teeth. It should still get through the group, but finishing second -- which looks likely now, after the impressive performance of Chile -- would in all probability see it play Brazil straight away. Spain can beat Brazil and it might well have had to beat them anyway if the Spanish were to reach their objective of winning the tournament. But no one expected to have to do it just yet.
Then there's the potential twin consequences of the defeat: has Spain lost its veneer of invincibility? And has everyone else learned how to beat them? Fundamentally, Spain was unlucky but it was also confronted by problems it couldn't overcome either here or at last summer's Confederations Cup. Does Spain now have to learn a different way round defensive sides who come and park the bus? Del Bosque has spent the last year trying to persuade everyone that Spain isn't favorite despite what they might think. Today, for the first time, they might even agree with him.