Spanish Sour Grapes

POSTED: 18 November 2011

IT was just a friendly alright.

But judging from the way Cesc Fabregas and David Silva grumbled about their 1-0 defeat to England, the Spaniards did treat it seriously.

Fabregas and Silva summed up England’s performance in one word – boring!

The Spaniards strutted onto the Wembley Stadium with the swagger of champions. Being the reigning world and European titlists, they were the solid favourites to dispatch a badly-depleted English side.


But the hosts came prepared to drop the upset axe and Frank Lampard scored the lone goal that gave Fabio Capello’s side an enormous boost going into the Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine next summer.


Fabregas said that during the match, he saw two squads with different styles – one that was defence-minded and one trying to play football and score goals.

Ironically, it was England, thanks to their surprising shift in manoeuvres and negative tactics, who prevailed and dented Spain’s armour of invincibility.

Since the Spaniards were shell-shocked by the way the English marked them solidly and frustrated them in the process, it became apparent that they did not take that defeat graciously.

Yes, the set-piece. Fabregas bemoaned that only through that situation that England could score. The Three Lions proved him right. They did it successfully and got the goal they wanted.


The English laid a tight security blanket against Spain basically the whole game but when an offensive opportunity knocked, they pounced on it brilliantly four minutes into the second half with Lampard nodding in a Darren Bent header that bounced off the post following a James Milner free kick that soared towards a crowded penalty area.

Silva, like Fabregas, was also surprised how the English paid heavy attention on defence, fearing that other teams might use the same ploy against them in future endeavours.

Instead of crying over spilled milk, Fabregas and Silva should have accepted the loss as gentlemen. That defeat should send them back to their senses for Spain have now intriguingly lost friendlies against England, Italy, Portugal and Argentina since they won the World Cup., while scoring only a hard-earned win over Chile and drawing against Mexico.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque should treat the loss as a wake-up call. He said there is no cause for alarm. It was just a friendly but the magnitude in itself was as enormous as losing badly in an important World Cup match.

He lauded the English for carrying out to the letter Capello’s plans to make life miserable as much as possible for Xavi and his illustrious teammates. And this was clearly illustrated as the Spaniards were unable to convert long periods of possessions into goals.

The ploy worked perfectly and enhanced the self-assurance of the Three Lions who in recent past have looked so mentally out of sorts in their plays. Their 1-0 win on Tuesday over Sweden that ended their 43-year jinx against the latter was also a reason to get pumped up.


Capello has been criticised for not presenting an English side who can match neck-and-neck with the world’s best during his term but that victory at the expense of Spain gave them loads of confidence especially once they do serious business in the European Championships next summer.

England might use that cautious, defensive approach in the future but against Spain that could only work if the Three Lions, like what they did in the recent friendly, can draw first blood and concentrate on shutting the latter the rest of the way. The English should bear in mind that the Spaniards, once they jump the gun on any team, are hard to overcome as the search for an equaliser or game-turning goal almost always turns futile.

Capello may have finally found a way to turn things around for England. He had recognised the team’s limitations. Though his team does not possess the flair of the Spaniards or say the Dutch and the Germans, they are abundant in talented players who, given the right instructions, could prove to be very effective with their dynamic style against the heavyweights or any other less-regarded opposition.


As for Fabregas and Silva, they should acknowledge that it was the English tactics that ruined their offence. Their remarks were tantamount to issuing sour grapes. So what if England played defensively and boring at that? Knowing how the visitors play, Capello’s men simply played cunning football.

Spain’s routine was plainly dismantled because in that match, the hosts kept their composure and outfoxed the visitors despite being outplayed earlier on. Even the best team losses and that game epitomized that circumstance.

The Three Lions may have won ugly and it was just a friendly and nothing was at stake, but it was still good enough to bruise the Spaniards’ ego.