I admit that I have done a poor job of posting about the 2011 UEFA U21 European Championship, but life is short, and I can only cover so many tournaments. I have chosen the Gold Cup, the Women’s World Cup and the Copa America (tournaments that actually count for something beyond grooming talent.) Nevertheless, I cannot let the U21 Euro pass by completely without comment.
Spain beat Switzerland 2-0, avenging (I guess) the senior side’s loss to Switzerland at the World Cup, which, it turns out, only galvanized the Spanish. Spain is now the World, European, and U21 European Champion, the first time any nation has ever held all three titles simultaneously. True to form, U-21 Spain tiki-taka‘ed their way to the title. Granted this side starred two World Cup winning players (Javi Martinez and Juan Mata), but the new generation is proving to be just as dominant as the current one, and that should alarm the rest of the world. What’s more, this side has proved that when their game plan of possession football doesn’t work, they could adapt, which is downright terrifying.
In 2008, Spain permanently threw off its label as the Sick Man of Europe (at least in football terms) and since the World Cup has opted instead to embrace another stereotype: The Conquistador. One hopes that the reign of Spain that stays mainly on the terrain produces the warm memories that Brazil did in its 1958-70 heyday.
(And to think in 2008 I thought Holland was going to win the European Championship and Marco van Basten was a genius. Clearly, I knew nothing.)