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La Roja: A Level-Headed Journey Through Spanish Soccer

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The fundamental conundrum of watching Spanish soccer is how it took until 2010 for the national team to win on the largest stage. Given the country’s successful domestic league and development of fantastic players that dominated much of the early years of European Cup competition, how did Alfredo Di Stéfano and László Kubala fail to win the World Cup for their adopted country? Before them, how did Antoni Ramallets not hoist an international trophy? Why only in 1964 and 2008 were European international cups earned? What does 1992 have to do with 2010?

I started reading Jimmy Burns’ La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and how Spanish Soccer Conquered the World with some trepidation. I’d read his Barça: a people’s passion and thoroughly enjoyed it, but this was a much bigger question he was asking. His introduction closes with this:

This is a journey through some of the landscapes, cities, people, myths, and real circumstances that contribute to Spanish soccer’s transformation from pupil to master. La Roja is about how world soccer’s great underachiever became world soccer’s great champion. It is about the country I was born in and how its soccer became beautiful.

I thought immediately of Madrid-Barça, of Franco, of Athletic Bilbao in the early years, and even of Recreativo Huelva, Spain’s first team. I admit it: that made me happy. I was sure it would be a more lyrical Morbo, Phil Ball’s wonderful accounting of Spanish soccer, sure it would be Shelby Foote turned into 337 pages of the beautiful game.

It was neither: it is its own work and stands on its own merits. The book reads like a series of short stories, coming apart in some ways in that its narrative doesn’t flow as well as Barça did. Each chapter reads like a separate article about its particular topic, down to the players often being re-introduced despite their appearance in the previous chapter. It sometimes comes across as a series of articles that were written without the concept of a book and then voila, a book appeared and an introduction was written to piece them together, but the benefits of these mini-stories come across when you set the book down. I like to occasionally flip through history books and be reminded in 5 pages of what I had been thinking about and this is the perfect version of that. It’s not dense—it’s easy on the eyes, especially on the shelf next to my copy of The Ball is Round—but it’s nowhere near devoid of substance. It reads more like Football Against the Enemy or How Soccer Explains the World than Barça or The Making of the Greatest Team in the World.

That said, there were no real standout chapters. It’s too balanced for that, too even-keeled. There’s no hyperbole and no bold proclamations. Burns is most at home, however, or at least so it seems, when writing about superstars (he’s written books on Beckham and Maradona, after all, though I have not even so much as paged through them) and the pages he spends discussing a variety of players from the beginning of the sport until the present day are the books most entertaining. There are vignettes about Gorostiza, Samitier, Kubala, Di Stéfano, Cruyff, and Guardiola (among others). There are discussions of Javier Clemente, Helenio Herrera, and Fred Pentland on the benches.

There are interviews with a fabulously large number of the characters from throughout Spanish football, but the fundamental basis of the book is its knowledge and explanation of day-to-day political and social realities in Spain. There is not the artistic license of Soccer in Sun and Shadow, yet there is very personal and loving care taken in telling this story. Don Quixote and bullfighters feature as often as any other character, but that is only natural in Spain where artistry and insanity are merely extensions of each other (if the running of the bulls in Pamplona is any indication, anyway).

His knowledge of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Athletic Bilbao history is stunning. That comes through in multiple instances when he profiles penyas and presidents, but often the book ends up focusing on those three mammoth clubs at the expense of all the others. Real Betis and Sevilla are notable exceptions and of course Rio Tinto, Huelva, and Racing Santander under Pentland are given their fair shake. You wouldn’t know, however, that Atleti has more league titles than Athletic if you based things on this book. Deportivo La Coruña’s league title in 1999-2000 is literally never mentioned (Depor is mentioned twice in reference to matches against Celta during the Civil War on consecutive pages), but Charly Rexach is also only mentioned a single time.

The answer to the question posed in the book’s title—why Spain in 2010 instead of a completely different nation?—is not reducible to a short blurb, but it might be summed up by reading Iniesta’s shirt as he screams for joy after netting the winning goal: Dani Jarque siempre con nosotros. Espanyol vs Barça, pragmatic vs beautiful, and yet also children growing up together, feeding through the same system that had become tired of losing, of coming up short, and decided to do something about it. It’s also the product of a nation in political turmoil for a thousand years struggling to understand itself and its varied history. It’s about Catalans, Basques, Galicians, Castilians, and Asturians finding themselves in yet another mix of joy and fear, elation and nervousness: what is Spain? Who is Spain?

From the humble beginnings of Spanish soccer in the Rio Tinto mines of Western Spain (between Nerva and El Campillo, if you fancy a look on a map) and the foundation of Receativo Huelva in 1889 through the brutality of the Civil War to the modern day dominance of Barça, La Roja shows itself to be well-researched and solidly put together. It dissects some of the myths surrounding Real Madrid’s dominance in the 1950s, but pulls no punches with the club either. No one is safe from facts in this book: Barça gets put under the microscope (Boixos Nois, anyone?) as much as Athletic (Basque racism) or Atletico (Jesus Gil). Luis Aragonés may have set the stage for Vicente del Bosque’s successes, but that doesn’t make him an agreeable person. Raul may be a legend, but he is still a disruptive locker room force.

Okay, so there is something I’ll admit here: I was taken in by the random Mourinho slagging,but then again Brian Phillips elicited a cackle—an actual cackle—from me when he called the Portuguese “a pure creature of noise” in his Guardiola tribute. Jimmy Burns calls José “soccer’s agent provocateur” and blames him for nearly destroying the national team’s unity before it could conquer the biggest stage, though there is no reason Mourinho should care about the national team, it must be said. Burns is not particularly critical, I should say, nor does he bother with Mourinho more than a half dozen times, which is good. Constant mentioning of a very recent arrival wouldn’t make much sense.

Overall, this is a very good book. It’s certainly well worth the read and well worth your hard earned ducats if you’re into spending them on books. There are quibbles, but quibbles are just that and the value of learning about the history of the game is worth it. This is not a book about Barcelona and it is not a book for the sycophantic looking to hear of their team praised on high. It is history: sometimes dry, often fascinating, and always looking to explain modern misconceptions (Madrid was not Franco’s team).

For all my criticism earlier, I enjoyed the book. It is nuanced to the point of being about as level-headed a discussion of football as I’ve ever encountered. It’s personal—Jimmy was born in Madrid to merengues during the Franco regime and was raised on Di Stéfano and Cruyff—and yet absurdly impartial. What’s more, I am by nature a slow reader and yet it held my attention enough that it took just over 3 days to finish it, perhaps a personal record. My wife looked at me at one point while I had my nose buried in it and said “That must be one hell of a book.”

Pick it up and enjoy, I say, you’ll be all the wiser for it.

Jimmy Burns is an Anglo-Spanish award winning author and journalist who has worked for over thirty years in British and international media. His previous books include Hand of God: a biography of Diego Maradona; Barça, a People’s Passion, and When Beckham Went to Spain. You can find La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World at Amazon and Amazon UK (where soccer = football, of course). You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter (@jimmy_burns) and visit his website at www.jimmy-burns.com.

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84 Responses to “La Roja: A Level-Headed Journey Through Spanish Soccer”

  1. mom4 says:

    Part of what makes Spanish football so interesting are the social/ political baggage issues that come along with it. Guess there’s another football book to be bought this year.

  2. mom4 says:

    What I learned while watching soccer this weekend.

    1. The Greek players have the coolest sounding names on the planet.

    2. The Russian National Anthem is a catchy tune.

    3. Defense? who needs a defense? You don’t need to have a defense on the pitch if you have Messi on your team to make up for all the goals you give away. Yes, Leo was in MY country proving to MY people why he is the best. Congrats to any BFBers who attended the spectacle.

    4. Rare shirtless pic of Leo. A beach, a little sun might be in order because he’s giving Ini a run for his money in the pale department. http://twitter.com/PochoLavezzi/status/211573933437222912/photo/1

    5. Arbeloa has no business being in the starting lineup for Spain. Start Albiol next to Pique and Ramos at RB. Start Martinez next to Pique and Ramos at RB. Heck, start Shakira next to Pique and Ramos at RB and you may do better.

    6. Xabi Alonso is slowing down Spain’s midfield. He’s getting in Busi’s way. Why, VdB, must he always play? I sometimes think that VdB coaches with too much sentiment.

    7. Yesterday’s game needed Pedro. Save Navas for when there’s a target for his crosses.

    8. Torres. What to do about Torres?

    9. What has happened to Holland? I need the Netherlands to get its act together and inflict group of death-like pain upon Portugal. In my dreams, CR7 goes home this summer goaless and frustrated. Yeah, I need to be more charitable towards CR but I just can’t find it in me to be so.

    10. My frustration at the choices of del Bosque and the overall play of Spains can be easily overcome by the joy of watching the phenomena that is Iniesta. That man is magic on the pitch.

    • barca96 says:

      2. I’ve always liked Italy’s anthem. Or perhaps that is because I’ve been hearing it over a decade thanks to Rossi’s countless wins in MotoGP :)

      7. I also thought that they needed Pedro more. Navas is so predicatable and who is he going to cross to?

      8. Torres wasn’t that bad. He was okay to me.

      9. Holland will bounce back strong. It’s normal for heavyweights to start slowly. In fact, we lost our first match in our 1988 Euro win, like Spain did in 2010.

      Or they could once again collapse due to the clash of ego’s. Sigh. Robben.

    • Barcaleya says:

      3. Mom – I saw Messi!!! I was in awe.

      All I did was watch him the whole match. And for the most part he was just standing around. But he was obviously observing the whole game and making runs when he thought a play would develop, or if he could develop a play, or if he could even reach the ball. Game was played mostly on the air (so many long balls and people exchanging passes with their heads) and less on the ground. Even he head-passed!

      He also looked really serious. Like he was studying for a final exam while watching the game around him. And when he had the ball and ran towards goal – it was scary. I would be scared to be a defender. He was really fast and it seems like the only way to stop him is to foul hard and hope not to get a red. Also, while he ran, it’s as if the heavens opened up and shone that light on him. So much force and energy concentrated upon that tiny man running. It’s amazing.

      I’m still awestruck.

      5. Yes. At one point, it seemed like Busi and Xavi were covering for Arbeloa which meant we lose two more people aside from Arbeloa himself who was useless.

      8. I think Torres will get better. Re VdBs tactic of fielding in all MFs and putting in the 9s when the opponents have tired – I think it’s a great one if only the MFs don’t hesitate to shoot and if we had more plays like the one leading to goal.

      10. Iniesta is peerless. He is magic. I love him.

      My ideal formation would be Iker, Jordi, Pique, Javi, Ramos, Busi, Xavi, Cazorla, Iniesta, Pedro and Torres/Llorente/Cesc.

      • barca96 says:

        Barcaleya, when are you going to post photos? Was waiting for your review but since you only followed Messi. Hehe.

        Who received the most cheers?
        I assume Messi.
        Was it much more louder than the 2nd most cheered player?

        Marcelo is such a badass that he had a time to slap Lavezzi while going down. Such a dirty player. I cant believe more people despise Busi for 1 or 2 isolated incidents than Marcelo who does something similar to this at least 10 times in 1 year.

        • Barcaleya says:

          How do I post photos? :p

          Umm…don’t think I can write a proper review :D I realized I liked watching Messi more than follow what else was going on in the pitch.

          Brazil were pretty good. Or maybe because Higuain and di Maria kept losing the balls. Marcelo was also surprisingly good with ball on his feet.

          Masch is really smart. You can see him moving towards areas, anticipating where the ball will be unlike the other defenders who were pretty static. They either just followed a certain man or the ball and were thus left behind by either man or ball.

          Kun also fantastic. He made really good runs. So much intelligent movement on his part. He always made himself available for a pass or put himself in really good areas to score.

          I think there were an equal number of supporters for both teams, very vocal and loud. But there was only one chant going around. And it was for Messi. There were no chants for other individual players. Only for Messi. And it reverberates around the stadium.

          Yes, I can never understand this hatred for Busi. Marcelo is a dirty player. I also saw that in the Brazil game. But you know, some people were born with faces that people either hate or love, no matter what the person does. Maybe Busi just doesnt have that charming, innocent-looking face.

          P.S.

          I just have to say that Pato was sexy. I don’t know what it was about him…but he was sexy.

      • mom4 says:

        So happy for you, Barcaleya!

        I’ve seen him live v USA last year and at the Camp Nou v Betis and both times I lost all sense of 40-something respectable momishness. You know… when you grab your hubby’s arm and screech, “Look, there he is. That Leo freakin’ Messi over there!”

    • blitzen says:

      5. Arbeloa was very bad. It made me especially angry because Busquets was covering for him a lot and being pulled out of position. I’m not a huge fan of Albiol either, but I agree that he would be a better choice right now (as CB, with Ramos as RB).

      6. Agree, but VDB will never bench Xabi Alonso. We (and Busquets) will just have to live with it.

      7. I was crying out for Pedro all through the second half! Actually Navas played quite well, though. I would have played them both, give real width.

      8. In cases where a 9 is needed, I would still choose Torres over Llorente (although one of my followers on twitter got quite shirty about it). I just think he is in better shape right now. Frankly, though I’m not convinced by the need for a 9 at all. My ideal front line would be something like: Pedro – Silva – Fabregas, or Pedro – Fabregas – Cazorla. Mata is also able to play in the “hole”.

      9. Still torn on Netherlands. They are playing much more attractive football recently, and I like a few of their players a lot (Afellay, Sneijder, Kuyt), but I still haven’t forgiven them for the way they played in the WC final. Especially De Jong and Van Bommel. And every time I see Van Persie’s face I just want to slap him. Still, I hope they make it out of their group.

      10. Did you see the pic I posted of Iniesta in the last thread?

      • mom4 says:

        8. agree on all points

        9. No love lost if Ned doesn’t do well in the tournament. I just need them to humiliate Portugal for one game. That’s not selfish, is it?

        10. That was one cool pic. Speaking of cool pics, there was an interesting one of Xavi and his behind floating around on twitterdom yesterday. I’d never be able to backtrack and find it for you, though. Maybe kickette will pick it up.

      • nia says:

        I said in another blog that Arbeloa, Xabi were bad and Ramos to an extent. People said i was being biased towards Barca players. I thought Xabi was getting in Busi’s way as well and i was told Busi was just bad on his own. I’m glad i’m not the only one that saw that. It’s just annoying when the Barca players have to cover more ground trying to help those clowns and then get blamed for a negative result.

        Ps: Arbeloa annoys me, especially when he puffs his stupid little cheeks. Just thought i’d throw it out there.

        • mom4 says:

          RM NT player. You can’t live with them and you can’t live with them:

          Xabi has his uses, and a great amount of talent, but he gets in the way of the current system.

          Ramos isn’t a bad player. And he plays much better and handles himself better for the NT than RM. He’s not bad at CB but is better at RB. Anywho, I’d want him to play RB just to get Arbeloa off the pitch. Not sure how I feel about the haircut.

          Albiol is rather useless. RM never starts him either. But from what I hear he’s a nice guy so he gets a pass from me just because CBs are so hard to come by lately.

          There is just no excuse for Arbeloa being there.

          Casillas? Sadly he’s the best. VV is the best for Barca, but Casillas (minus the slaming it upfield too often thing) is just so dang good.

        • Messiah10 says:

          Ramos played extremely well. He has his entire NT career. I put my bias aside for NT games, but totally agree that Xabi is a square peg in a round hole. Either bench Busi(no freaking way) or bench Xabi. I thought Navas had a hell of a game. He came in and made wide deep runs with some penetrating crosses. It’s not his fault no one made a back post run or was tall enough to get on the end of one. Arbeloa definitely needs to sit. He looks so uncomfortable out there. Doesn’t like the ball at his feet. Got beat bad on quite a few occasions. Martinez would do well b/c of his pace. I think VDB will make some changes. Who and where is the real question? He does seem to play into club politics and only play players b/c of “backlash” fear. That would frustrate me if I were a Spainard.

  3. Kxevin says:

    Nice review, Isaiah. You make me want to read this one, even though any extra reading makes my soul ache (a detrimental side effect to being an editor).

    –Word on the street is Thiago Silva to PSG for 40m. If true, they suddenly have quite the project doing over there. Nothing like a big wad of cash to get things started. Seems like every year there’s an enfant terrible jacking transfer market prices.

  4. barca96 says:

    At times, it looked as though Iniesta was actually levitating. Is that allowed? Surely that’s a booking.

    • Barcaleya says:

      Read this comment too. Haha. So funny!

      • barca96 says:

        Yeah. I’m so glad that those English men recognize and praise Iniesta.

        Here, another one.

        I’m fairly sure Iniesta is made of different material to humans. Mercury, possibly, or flubber.

        But they do seem to go overboard with Pirlo. He is good but I don’t know, I thought Xavi was more critical. Xavi was everywhere.

        LOL at the German commentator who referred to long balls not being the appropriate tactic for the “Spanish dwarf show

  5. Barcaleya says:

    Oh Gosh – mods, please fix this. I only wanted “I was in awe” in bold.

    The rest of my comment and everyone else’s after turned bold too.

    Sorry and thanks for fixing!

      • barca96 says:

        :lol: @ Barcaleya. I thought it was me who screwed everything up with my fancy italics and bold’s. When the comments came up after I submitted my comment, “what the f*ck have I done?” and I kept refreshing the page to wait for it to get back to normal. Pheeuw.

      • Barcaleya says:

        Kevin – thanks!!!

        This happens to me all the time. I’m sorry.

        I don’t know what I do wrong. I’m such a clutz at this computer stuff.

        If I don’t do it often, I forget how to do it. Like, how do I strike out words again?

        Barca96 – that was me. Haha. I always have to ask moderators to fix my comments.

  6. barca96 says:

    Hypocrites.
    I was reading Marca this morning. Lots and lots of moaning about the dry pitch. Strangely, when Real Madrid used this as a ‘tactic’ against Barcelona, it was a applauded as a masterstroke. Horse for courses.

    But I’ve only heard the Barca players complaining about the dry pitch.

    • nzm says:

      The pitch was diabolical. It looked more like a cushioned lawn in an English country estate than a pitch. You could see the tracks left behind by the players as they were moving across it!

  7. nzm says:

    Looking forward to reading Jimmy’s book – thanks, Isaiah for the review.

    What’s interesting to me is the origin of football in Spain, as I hadn’t really thought about didn’t know how it was introduced into the country.

    But I must admit that if you had asked me, I wouldn’t have guessed that it was mainly through the British miners working in the Rio Tinto mines in Western Spain!

    Something else that struck me – as I was reading your review – and you mentioned Basques, Galicians, Catalunyans, Asturians and Castilians etc, is how prevalent all those provincial flags are displayed by the Spanish teams during their victory celebrations. E.g. Puyol will always have a Senyera, Villa an Asturian flag, Llorente an Ikurrina etc.

    I imagine that it would have a lot to do with the history of Spain and the sense that most of the regions would prefer ot be autonomous.

    Is it just me being sensitive to Spain doing it, or do I not notice it when other teams celebrate? Is the display of provincial flags done by many other teams in such a big way? Italy or Greece for example?

  8. Barcaleya says:

    Thanks, Isaiah for the review. Will try to get a copy of the book. But I haven’t even read Graham’s one so….

  9. Kxevin says:

    The latest is even sillier: 50m fee, 9m per annum for Thiago Silva. We were in no way, shape or form willing to play in that kind of an arena. It also drives up the price for every other top-quality defender on the market. I was already thinking 40m for Javi Martinez, if there is a shard of truth to those rumors, some of it for the “within La Liga” surcharge.

    Every season, there is a team with a sudden, massive influx of bucks. This year it’s PSG, with its Qatari petrobucks. It will be nice, if the sporting project works out the way they hope, to have another big player on the world scene. Because make no mistake, that team wants to make waves in Europe. I think they’re also smarting over the comeuppance they received by little Montpellier.

    • Ron Mexico says:

      I, for one, welcome the new Parisian family tote neighborhood. If they purchased both Silva and Lavezzi they could be a force in the CL next year, and for years to come, which I think is a good thing.

    • nzm says:

      Wouldn’t be surprised if Malaga also joins in and buys a couple of note players – or ones just below that level. Especially to qualify for CL.

    • Helge says:

      Let Thiago Silva go wherever he or the money wants – but not to us!

      For 40m, I would not buy ANY defender of the world (unless a younger Puyol or Maldini was available).
      Apart from that, Thiago Silva is from my point of view not even the best CB nowadays. Mats Hummels is better than him, his passing and reading of the game is pure class. And he is 4 years younger than him.
      If the club wants to spend big on a defender, do it for Hummels or Javi Martinez, but not for a guy who has ‘only’ 3 or 4 years at top level left (from a club that always asks overpriced transfer fees).

    • Messiah10 says:

      It’s been a crime for years that Paris didn’t have a team and now they could build a potential dynasty with the oil bucks pouring in. It can be both bad and good. I have a soft spot in my heart for Paris and having them host CL leg ties will be sweet! Hopefully, I can make a PSG vs FCB one! The downside is inflating the market. Similar to Citeh and Chelski. I really think a salary cap is needed. It’s the only way to put a halt to this silliness. Most professional sports in the U.S. have implemented it because of their recognition that costs and wages were sky rocketing due to their globalization. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

  10. messifan says:

    Hmmm…I might pick up this book for that bullfighting theme you’re alluding to.

    Isaiah, is Soccer in Sun and Shadow any good? I heard so much about it over at the classical blog.

  11. Barcaleya says:

    OhmyGod – I would have died if Milner scored.

    • Ryan says:

      They should be ahead!

    • Barcaleya says:

      Let’s go France!!!

      I cannot bear for France to lose to England.

      I have supported England for a long time cause I pitied them. Had a thing for underdogs. But not anymore.

      John Terry is despicable. And it doesn’t sit well with me that Ferdinand was not selected even with the Cahill injury on the back of Terry and Anton’s case.

    • Barcaleya says:

      Haha. They looked like getting a goal ahead, tbh.

      I don’t know what’s wrong with France. Their players on the final third seem so far away from each other, so when they can’t shoot themselves and have to pass, the give so much time to England to close them down.

      Arrrggghhh! That was close. Too bad Hart saved it.

      Why do I also feel as if the French players are so far away from each other. And why haven’t they fashioned really good chances near goal. I’m spoilt by Barcelona. And even if Spain only had one goal yesterday, they had really good chances near the goal. They either didn’t shoot or fluffed it. France isnt even getting near.

      And Italy had so many great shots on goal.

      Ohmy – yessss!!!! Nasri goal!!!! There you have – a long range shot.

      • Ryan says:

        A really nice, quick shot!

      • Messiah10 says:

        It definitely didn’t help the M’Villa wasn’t available to start the game. He provide the cover for Ribery and others to push forward with abandon. Both teams didn’t want to lose the match. No one does in round 1. That’s why their typically boring. The 2nd and 3rd rounds should be much better offensively that is.

  12. Ryan says:

    Ballack complaining about England parking the bus…what?

  13. mom4 says:

    Before the end of the tournament, the Ballack and Lalas pairing are gonna come to blows. My money is on Ballack.
    *sigh* US football coverage!? *sigh*

    • messifan says:

      I wouldn’t mind throwing Tommy Smyth into that fight. That guy and his liga hate is too much!

      • Ryan says:

        +1000

        Why in heaven’s name is he ESPN3′s commentator for la Liga?

        • mom4 says:

          I think, and I could be wrong, that their thinking is that we American SOCCER fans are so clueless, that they can pay anyone with an accent and almost correct grasp of fancy, sport-specific terms like pitch, football, and touchline to comment on the games and we won’t know the difference.

          • Messiah10 says:

            Haha. Couldn’t agree more mom4. Well said. The truth is that the average person watching doesn’t know squat. So they can throw joe schmo in there and not do bad. Notice how they have to throw in Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller to call and commentate the games. Also, Brian McBride, but I like him. He’s pretty good. Lalas is horrible though. Can’t stand him. He was saying how proud he was of England. Whatever.

          • barca96 says:

            I think, and I could be wrong, that their thinking is that we American SOCCER fans are so clueless, that they can pay anyone with an accent and almost correct grasp of fancy, sport-specific terms like pitch, football, and touchline to comment on the games and we won’t know the difference.

            :lol:

            I hate that Tommy Smyth with a Y too. God, I used to watch PressPass every day while I was in Australia.
            ESPN South-East Asia only shows random bits of him.

            But what happened with Lalas and Ballack?
            What were they arguing about?
            I find Ballack boring. Hardly says anything and lacks emotion.

    • hansh says:

      I’m loving having Ballack working for ESPN. He’s a decent commentator, he’s pretty entertaining, and he doesn’t just go along with whatever dribble is coming out of Lalas’s mouth.

      I love his accent too! <3

  14. olbucky says:

    After yesterday I didn’t think I’d see as bad a managing job as VDB in the euros. Then Roy Hodgson worked his magic today. Great job Roy bringing Theo Walcott in in the 90th minute in a 1-1 game. That gives plenty of time for your fastest player to have some impact. I guess you couldn’t have done that 30 minutes ago but you might have been sleeping as your team played 10 men back and the most boring shit park the bus soccer I’ve ever seen. And good move taking out Oxlade Chaimberlain. He was only your best player by a mile, why keep him in???????
    Why England hired this guy to manage their national team is a mystery to me. If England ever wins A major it will be a fluke like Chelsea this year unless of course they change direction. This insistence on playing boring counter attacking football has been beaten by Pep and his legacy. England NT and the premiere league need to adjust their playing styles accordingly. They have some great young players waiting to be set free. Let them play.

    Alexis Lalas defending England confirms my stance he is the biggest soccer moron on the planet. I have a list of soccer morons:
    1 Alexi Lalas
    2 tommy Smith
    3 Eric Wynalda

    • Ron Mexico says:

      Jesus, give Woy a break! He got the job, what?, two months ago? What’s he suppose to do exactly? Who are these English youngsters (save for the injured Wilshere) even capable of playing the way you’re talking about? I came to this blog because I really enjoyed reading and talking about Barcelona and soccer in general, but I may have to start skipping the comments. Too many people complaining about people parking the bus, anti football, “they didn’t deserve to win”. I do think the way Barcelona play is ideal, but it doesn’t make it the only way. Defensive tactics are the right of the weak. England, despite all of it’s media’s posturing over te years is not in a position to play flowing, possession based soccer. They’re going to have to be reactive to win, and you know why? I’m totally fine with it. There is no “right” way to play.

      • olbucky says:

        Why can’t they? The rest of the world is learning to play. Athletic Bilbao learned to play in one season under bielsa. It’s not as complicated as reinventing the wheel. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting them play. Hodgson is not the one to do it and neither was Capello. England needs to decide what direction it wants to go. I don’t think anybody expects much out of Hodgson and that’s based on a long career. How would you feel if Barca choose him?

        • Ron Mexico says:

          Club football is completely different from international football. It’s much easier to teach a defensive system than the alternative. It’s why you see so many teams setting up to counter. There just isn’t enough time, especially for a manager like Woy, to drill these players in the system you’re talking about unless there is a strong reliance on a club like Spain with Barca, or Russia and Zenit.

          And I’ll ask again. Which young English players are you talking about?

          • olbucky says:

            Why wait on Walcott? Why take out Oxlade Chaimberlain? How about those two? The point is that the whole national system is and has been committed to playing this style of play and the rest of the world is passing it by. England had spells when they looked great when they attacked, but then would just sit back and defend. They never even looked to attack, no effort what so ever, just sit back and defend. Hodgson showed no faith in his team. Again, he had a lightening fast Theo Walcott itching to get in. But since Roy had no intention of attacking, Theo stayed on the bench. England has no intention of going for the win, they’re just trying to survive. Roy is part of the old guard, that has go to change if England ever wants glory.

  15. Blau-Grenade says:

    Buy Alou Diarra. Great game. His defense and distribution were amazing in the middle of the pitch. He can play central defense as well as holding midfielder. I saw him facilitating attack for Le Blues.

  16. mom4 says:

    @ nzm, our correspondent on the street.

    How is the support for the NT in BCN?

    How is the mood of the average person over there with the bailout news, falling Euro, and dismal over-leveraged real estate issues?

    • nzm says:

      Support is muted. As long as the Catalan/Barca players do ok and prop up the team, there’s an underlying hint of smugness in the air.

      You’ll hear the cheers when Spain scores, but you won’t see any Spanish flags hanging off balconies. ;)

      As for all the other stuff – the real estate crash happened here over 3 years ago, the banks have been in trouble for much longer than that, and the falling Euro doesn’t matter because no one has any money anyway.

      The only thing that’s stopping a full-blooded revolution is that the government is deliberately keeping costs of food and medicines low, so the normal people won’t see the issue for a little while longer.

      By the time they do see it, the bill will have been passed through parliament which will make it illegal to demonstrate in the streets.

      Ahhh, the sweet stench of democracy and freedom of speech – I guess that they should only be allowed when the pro-support is greater than the dissent.

      • mom4 says:

        The financial talking heads on the tube have been discussing Spain and the bank bailout and of course Greece’s upcoming election and the effect on the markets etc. Everything’s global now.

        • nzm says:

          This animated IOU graph was published last year which, when you click on the ring beside the country names, shows you who owes what and to whom.

          If some of the bigger countries would pay their debts, it would help! You can see why the UK can’t afford the EU to fail, even though they aren’t formally a part of it. UK depends on the well-being of the EU because most of the exports head this way.

      • messifan says:

        They’re going to pass a law restricting public demonstrations? Well, I hope Spain doesn’t travel back in time :(

        In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to have a single-currency which restricts individual government monetary policy decisions. Spain faces a sovereign debt crisis, but they can’t do an Argentina and default on their debt because that would bring down the entire Euro system.

        But a deeper problem for Spain is to find a balance between regional autonomy and fiscal spending.

        As for the global financial system, what I’m scared of the most is the fairly unregulated derivative market, which leaves room for a lot of speculations.

        Here’s some interesting stats: 2011 World GDP aprox. 62 trillion USD (source: wiki); 2011 World Derivatives approx. 700 trillion USD (source: NYTimes).

        That’s a lot invented money floating around.

  17. nzm says:

    Looks like our little Dutch boy has learnt all the right Castilian phrases!

  18. messifan says:

    Can’t watch the Sweden v. Ukraine game, but I take it that “I AM Zlatan” hasn’t scored yet. How’s he doing?

    • Barcaleya says:

      Argh. He just scored. I am supporting Ukraine. Who are playing really well (from what I’ve seen).

      Zlatan’s goal came from a Ukraine clearance that didn’t quite go far enough and fell fortunately on his feet. Gosh. What a lucky person. He just stood there and got a goal.

    • Ryan says:

      Ukraine are actually looking really good and energetic in attack, and the crowd is naturally going bonkers whenever they storm forward.

  19. Barcaleya says:

    Rather sad to see Schevshenko losing pace now.

    Still makes intelligent runs. I really liked him at AC Milan. I always blame Chelsea for his decline.

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