There is little debate that Spain is the greatest team in the modern era. Three consecutive major- tournament wins, the only team to ever defend a European title, in addition to how they've redesigned the way we know the game is played today assures them of that much.
Are they the greatest ever? Many will be looking to make that argument today, but to do so is more than a little pedantic. Like those who would argue about the pound-for-pound greatest prize fighter, trying to make a case for one over the other - especially from different eras - never really amounts to much.
It's better to look at what Spain has done as a whole and let their accomplishments stand against comparison. They are now the holder of three European championships. That's a feat only equaled by Germany. With their win over Italy this year, they also become the only team to ever score four goals in a Euro final.
They have won one World Cup. Uruguay, Germany, Argentina, Italy and Brazil have done that, and more. But they hold the record for most points accumulated during a World Cup qualification - a perfect 30 of a maximum 30 points.
Between November 2006 and June 2009 they went on a 35-game unbeaten streak. It's a point of pride they share only with Brazil. During that time, they also went on a 15-game winning streak. An accomplishment they can lay claim to by themselves.Tika-taka style
But more than all the statistics and records, what pushes them into that upper echelon of world football greats is what people have come to hate about Spanish football. Their "tika-taka style" - which is based on the concept of defending through possession - has become the bane of the Euro crowds this summer. Plodding and methodical, the Spaniards have been content to push the ball from side-to-side, stringing together pass after pass, without any real intention of going forward.
They lull their opponents to sleep with their play and strike when they've become too accustomed (or perhaps too bored) at watching them keep the ball.
The whistles and jeers from the Polish and Ukrainian crowds rained down throughout the tournament when Spain carried the play for too long. It's a naive approach to watching soccer but you can sympathize with those who shelled out big dollars to be entertained by the world's greatest team.
But, again that's what makes Spain different. Their style of play is transforming the way world football is played, as club teams like Barcelona and the world over are now adapting their methodology as their own.
Similar to how the Dutch reformed the way we understand football in the 1970s, with their total football approach, how the English brought its game to the world during the 1960s and Brazil inspired with their grace and beauty in the 1990s, the Spanish are showing that simply possessing the ball is enough.
Some may not like it. It's a little like watching a cat play with its prey for too long, eventually you just want the cat to put the poor mouse out its misery. But the Spanish take no such sympathy's and make no such apologies for their droning style - nor should they.Spaniards asserted dominance
Just as they asserted their dominance over Italy in the final (it really was a master class in how to break down a squad) they seek to constantly remind opponents of their superior skill, keeping the ball away from them for long stretches of time - just because they can. And what frustrates casual observers more than anything is that, at times, it seems like Spain has no intention of scoring at all. That is until they stretch a 30-yard ball through the narrowest of passing lanes - just like Xavi Hernandez did for Spain's second goal - and then stride off to celebrate in their opulence.
You're then left to wonder why they didn't just do it 20 minutes ago. Well, the answer is quite trite: because they didn't want to.
Spain showed Sunday that they are capable of scoring at will. Once they were a few goals to the good, and Italy was forced to open up the play, Spain batted around its Italian mouse with ease. The only thing that was boring about it was that it was an all too familiar scene - Spain beating up on a top tier opponent has become common place in the last four years.
And given that their squad will remain relatively intact heading into Brazil 2014 (actually, they'll likely get better as two of their best players in Carles Puyol and David Villas, who missed the entire tournament, should be available) it's one that can surely be replicated.
The question remains, however: is Spain the greatest of all time? Who can say. What is clear though is that they are the most influential of the modern age.
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