View from the stands: Spain vs. Chile

One of our long-time members, Eklavya, was lucky enough to attend the friendly between Spain and Chile yesterday, and was generous enough to write up his experience for us! Take it away, Ek:

I was on holiday in New York when I saw a tweet from @barcastuff mentioning this friendly match taking place in Geneva, Switzerland. Matches of this caliber don’t take place here often since the maximum capacity of the stadium is only 30 000. As soon as I saw the tweet, I called my buddies, made up my plans and bought tickets to this match for the really cheap price of 44.- CHF per ticket (approximately €35 and $47).

We arrived at the stadium right in time to see the teams warming up and playing a few rounds of rondos. With the exception of Sanchez, no Chile player got much applause from the crowd when their names were being announced. As you might expect, most of the Spanish players got the full applause, with Iniesta, Ramos and Villa getting the loudest cheers in that order. It seemed many people had never heard of Mario Suarez, Monreal, Javi Garcia, and so were left scratching their heads.

As I noticed the last time I went to a stadium, the bright green pitch looks smaller in reality than on TV, which I guess is due to the height and optics of the cameras.

I had tickets for the corner sector in the north stands, but our seats turned out to be way lower than I had imagined. Although you could see the some players closely, the gridded metal fence was chopping part of our view into perfect cubes. The good thing was that Spain’s bright red and Chile’s white jerseys really stood out well on the pitch.

photo 1

After seeing Valdes and Sergio Ramos high-five and hug, we were treated to a first class view of the Chile’s first goal at only the 5th minute. The thing about watching matches live is that without the visual help of replays from all angles, you (or at least I) forget the overall play pretty quickly. Instead you’re left with the post-goal impact and a vivid atmosphere, which gets accentuated a tiny bit more as you take a big sip from your beer to celebrate.

Much to our dismay, the stadium had plenty of spare seats remaining even after the kickoff, and I felt our (relatively) small town wasn’t doing justice to this team despite being generally very knowledgeable about football matters. They later announced that the crowd was made up of a meager 15000 supporters, exactly half of the stadium’s capacity, and half of the crowd that had turned up for the Argentina-Portugal match a few years ago.

photo 2

After Chile’s goal we decided to try our luck at moving towards the middle sector. As the prices vary from sector to sector, changing seats isn’t “legal” strictly speaking, but after sneaking out and exchanging a few smooth words with the security guard, we found ourselves sitting in the much more comfy and padded seats of the VIP section. For the record, the guy in front of us was holding a 134.- CHF ($143/ €108) ticket. However, the atmosphere in this sector was noticeably more subdued and many more expensive clothes were visible, but I digress.

Coming back to the actual match, which we had sort of forgotten in our excitement, we could now see the whole field perfectly well, as well as make out the formations and the players.

photo 3

The most noticeable feature on the whole pitch was easily Santi Cazorla’s ridiculously small height, even as compared to the low average of Spain’s team. Alexis, pretty short as well, did not give the same impression at all due to his noticeable strength. Combined with his speed and work rate, he looked like a bull willing to take on anyone. Pedro, who is around the same height and capable of matching Sanchez’s work ethic, did not make an noticeable impression on me, although he did have a good game, providing assists for both goals.

Similarly, Xavi and Fabregas, both starters and stars, didn’t strike me in any particular way (as disappointing as that can sound). On the other hand, Don Andres Iniesta, who came on in the second half for Xavi, was clearly on a higher level than the rest. Despite not having any “magic” moments, he still moved glided on the pitch in way that made the pitch glow brighter and better (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating 😀 ).

Negredo, taller than most others, was pretty craptastic in his passes and decision making when he came on late in second half. Koke showed some (surprisingly) good technical abilities and maturity in one particular (somewhat) sticky situation.

Overall, Spain were not exactly impressive that day, and were lucky to get a game-tying goal in the last minute. Also, the Chile fans were louder than the rest of the stadium combined.

photo 4

Highlight of the day:

At half time we decided to go up as close to the pitch as possible and try to get Iniesta’s attention as he was warming up, but he ignored our cries for 10 whole minutes, returned to the bench to remove his training kit and put on his red jersey. Not giving up yet, the small crowd of fans that had gathered up there (mostly consisting of small kids and their parents) jumped up the small chain barrier and ran up to the seats closest to the bench that had apparently been closed off for security reasons. Iniesta, apparently having heard our shouts, came out and threw his light blue training kit at us which I missed by a few only inches.

photo 5

Next thing we knew, all the players were coming out of the tunnel again and the security guys were all over us. Despite the chaos, Casillas came up as close as possible you can get to a crowd of crazy fans and signed a few shirts while mumbling something in Spanish. You can imagine the craziness that ensued when Pepe Reina and Villa came out a few moments later and sat on the bench, right next to where we were congregating. Reina gave us a somewhat warm nod and thumbs up, whereas Villa, who has a full badass black beard, gave us his eyebrows-raised-cold-stare-of-death that he’s known for (that’s just how he is). At this point the security had enough and started booting everyone out, but I couldn’t be bothered: I had just seen three major stars from as close as possible you can be.

So, that sums up my interesting evening. On a final note dedicated to all the ladies on my twitter timeline who might wonder at times: when the match ends and players take off their shirts you can make out the lines of their abs from the stands pretty well.

What, no pic of that??? 🙁 Thanks very much anyway, Ek! We always appreciate game reports from members of the family!

By blitzen

Canadian, cule, corporate wage slave. Came late to the beautiful game, but fell under FCB's spell in 2006 and never looked back.


  1. I think that our defense is a positional mess, rather than a poor defense. It’s also worth noting that the very skills that make our defenders so excellent in attack, make them suspect when it comes to traditional defense.

    So from a classic Premiership defense, we have a crap defense. From a Barça-centric worldview, we have tactical complexities to solve.

    For example, look at that Sevilla goal off the break. Busquets, Pique and Mascherano made like Keystoke Kops on that one, because they just aren’t traditional defenders. On the other hand, a traditional defender isn’t going to dribble a ball to the halfway line, and pinpoint a pass to Iniesta’s boot.

    So we take what we have, and understand how it works.

    When people look at other teams with a more traditional defense and say we have a crap defense, it’s like trying to haul a camper with a Ferrari, and saying that a Ferrari is a crap car because it can’t haul anything other than ass. You have to look at what something can do.

    In effect, our first-choice back line is two DMs and two wing attackers. Yes, at times it is going to be vulnerable, on either the break or on set pieces. But if our defenders start thinking like traditional defenders, good luck getting them even NEAR the halfway line, much less past it and on the attack.

    The announcer who scoffed that David Luiz moved like he was being controlled by a kid with a PlayStation controller is craving one style of defense. Luiz was playing another, more Barça-like style, in which he is more mobile and active, with and without the ball.

    Yes, we conceded two goals today, for reasons having nothing to do with us having a crap defense. Organization and understanding easily fixes both goals. A wide-open man on that second? That’s just somebody not talking, rather than any indictment of the quality of our defense. We have an excellent defense in the context of, and for the purposes of, this club.

    Is it going to be a set-piece stopping, slide tackling, none-shall-pass stalwart? Never.

    1. Just in passing I’ll make the point from an earlier discussion that if we had adopted the unfathomable British tactic of putting a man on each post at corners that wouldn’t have been a goal.

    2. True. But again, that would mean there wouldn’t be defenders poised to take a recovered ball and lead the break, or make a long pass. I think that we just have to dance with death, and cover our eyes on set pieces, hoping not to hear the opponent celebrating.

      I also wonder whose man that was for that second goal? That was crazy. He was just standing there. That’s why I point to a systemic issue, more than a personnel one.

      P.S. Responded above to your journalism query. Fascinating discussion.

    3. “I think that we just have to dance with death, and cover our eyes on set pieces, hoping not to hear the opponent celebrating.”

      That’s what most of us were doing back when Puyol and Abidal were still stalwarts of our defense. Right now our set piece defending borders on the ridiculous. We would have conceded from two corners were it not for a soft call.

    4. See for me, that is far from the case. I leave the math to someone else, but I would wager that our percentage of goals conceded from set pieces is in keeping with that of a club at the top of the European stage.

      Meanwhile, Chelsea, with the purportedly awesome traditional defense, lost today. Who’s back there for them? Luiz, Terry, Ivanovic, Cole, etc? You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think those four are top-class defenders, and yet.

      Defenses give up goals. That’s part of the game. There are also teams that have defenses that are a liability. Ours is far from that. I think that people are overreacting.

    5. If you analyse everything into minute detail, every goal scored and let in is due to a mistake. The problem with us is that it’s happening in every bloody game. So we’re neither learning from our mistakes nor hiring different personnel to fix them. If fact we’re doing precisely the opposite, in coming up with reasons to excuse systematic failures. The goals regularly shipped in for nigh 2 years are an indictment of the poor state of our defense. It will not take a set-piece stopping defenders, I agree. I fear it will take three top class defenders now, to stop our letting in so many goals. Players aren’t talking because we don’t have good defenders at all. In fact, we only one proper defender in the team, Pique, and he hasn’t been particularly good since 2011.

      Good defenders who also dribble the ball into midfield aren’t an asset only we possess. I watched Borussia and Bayern today. That’s essentially how they start most attacks.

      The facts are clear, to me at least. We import goals reguraly. A defense that does is a poor defense, no matter how we may try to excuse it. A team with a poor defense will not make any headway against tough opposition in the CL. It works in our crappy league, but even here it’s starting to fail.

    6. Bayern has already dropped points in the Bundesliga, have they not? Using defenders to initiate attacks requires a certain type of player, a different type of player. We are going to concede goals. It’s as simple as that.

      Some of them can be fixed with organization, like that floating Sevilla attacker on the second. Others are just going to happen.

      But poor defenses don’t win leagues, or make six consecutive Champions League semifinals. I understand the need to apportion blame of some sort. I just think the whole “crappy defense” notion is one that isn’t supported by aggregate performance.

    7. But it is though isn’t it? Isn’t the defense consistently our weakest part practically in every match? Doesn’t your heart race every time the opposition enters the last third of the pitch? Don’t you just want to look the other way when they have a corner (Sevilla had 9 of those today! 9!)? Clearly there’s something fishy going on. It is only exacerbated by our reluctance to pay market price value for a decent defense. Even Wenger has accepted what is happening and spent serious cash. Wenger! the cheapest guy in the EPL. The longer we go without seriously investing, the more expensive it will eventually be.

    8. Aha. Sevilla had 9 corners, and got one set piece goal. One. Does that speak to a defense that is a disaster? Shouldn’t a disastrous defense give up maybe 3 or 4 set piece goals from 9 of them?

      The fishy thing that is going on, for me, is the unrealistic expectations of culers. Perfect record in the Liga, has won the only silver it’s been up for so far this season. Sounds pretty good to me.

      Define a “decent” defense. Chelsea’s? They lost today. RM? Ramos, Varane, Pepe, etc? They drew. Who else ya got to suggest?

      People need to calm down, take this team week to week and enjoy its play and stop worrying about the doom that might never come. I half think if this team wins a Treble this season, people will still say that it won a Treble despite a crappy defense.

    9. Sevilla scored twice from corners. We were just lucky the ref counted only one.
      We have to look at a entire patch of games for the data to have meaning. Four games in and 50% of the goals we have allowed so far have come from corners. Defenses are penetrated all the time, even legendary ones, like Capello’s Milan. What they don’t allow to happen is the ridiculousness that we are allowing every week. Most great teams have a balance to them. The last great Barca side, that of 2011, only let in 36 goals all season, scoring 147. Last season we scored 158: we let in 66(!). That tells me we have an imbalance in the syste–we have perhaps the sharpest sward in the kingdom, but pretty weak armour. It is armour that always determines the outcome.
      I know Real have allowed more goals than we have. That’s to be expected. They started 4 new players today, three of them in either defense or in the defensive midfielder position. We are using essentially the same defensive block as 2011 but with worse results.

    10. No. Sevilla scored once from a corner. The other was correctly ajudged to be foul.

      I am just not sure what people want, but I feel lije suggesting that a different club might make them less miserable. I have no idea how we suffer through such mediocrity week after week.

      Previous teams gave up fewer goals because of playinga less risky style, the same style opponents have figured out how to game, and culers say needs to be tossed because it can’t break a bus.

      So the club does. More vertical, more risky. Scores more, concedes more, wins more Liga points. But the point isn’t that. It’s a nonexistent standard of flawlessness that when not met, leads to “sky is falling” dire predictions.

      I don’t buy it. And I don’t buy it because it isn’t supported by results. This team is perfect. Not bad for a disaster. I know. The standard is clean sheets and a manita. I always forget that.

      The set piece goal that was conceded today was a consequence of a frail skill player getting out-physicaled. So you replace Busquets to prevent that happening, or do you accept that corners involve risk with a team of comparatively small players.

      And then excuses are made for RM. Uh, our coach, in the midst of installing a new system, had to battle cancer. Now we have a new coach, who is wrestling with installing his own system. Same players, new instructions.

      To my view, people are so anxious to find doom and blame that no slack is given. Every other team has a reason, but not ours. The core of RM’s defense has a tenure as long as ours, and by all accounts it was shambolic today.

      It doesn’t make sense the way supporters are assauting their own club.

    11. Crappy league ? That’s insulting.
      You’d rather watch headless chicken run around the length of pitch. Be my guest. I don’t know what makes you happy people.

    12. Crappy league not in terms of quality of play. Far from it. Crappy in the sense that we and Real control all resources. We pay Messi more in a year, for example, than Villarreal’s team cost. How is that not a crappy league, if the top two spots are guaranteed?

    13. Then every league is crappy. Lyon used to own Ligue 1. Now PSG does. Montpellier was an aberration. Look at how often United wins the Prem. In the Bundesliga, the big two are already beginning to distance themselves.

      It isn’t just La Liga.

    14. I wasn’t talking about everyone else. I was talking about how crappy Spain’s league is. And it is crappy. That the some of the other leagues are going that way too is another debate altogether. In the Bundesliga, at least, they have a fairer distribution of wealth. Bayern has the most resources, certainly, but that’s also down to great business sense on their part.

    15. Perfectly said.
      We always hear about how better RM defense is , Or bayern..etc, But i can almost bet we can concede less goals across the season than all of them with our 2 DM And 2 attacking wingers, Even though the other teams have better ‘names’ in their back-line.
      Our defense isn’t defined by our back-line, It’s our pressure, A collective effort from the whole team, that can outshine any back-line composed of super ‘names’.
      Yet Some are under the wrong impression that if we bring ‘true’ CBs, It’ll be even better, But that’s not how it works, It’ll break our harmonious possession based football, Which is by itself the best defense we can ever have.

    16. What 86ed about the crappy league is pretty straight forward. I don’t know how one can argue with that.
      We are guaranteed a top 2 spot. We have a larger share of the tv money. What’s so hard to understand about that?
      La Liga is crappy when compared to the other leagues in the 2 terms that he mentioned.

      Of course there are dominating teams in other leagues too but not because of the 2 reasons stated above.

      I love Barca and I like watching La Liga but I can not deny that fact.

  2. Ok then, we are 2 points ahead of THEM, the league is ours. It’s time to concentrate on our CL campaign.

  3. It seems even our goalie has twigged to one of our issues.

    From Barcastuff: Valdes: “We need to control better the attacks of our full-backs to avoid leaving Busquets alone.” #fcblive

  4. AS and Marca are just clutching at straws now. They say Alexis’s goal was illegal because it was scored at min 93:07. They say Messi started his run at 93:00 exactly and the ref should have blown for full time then, hence the illegal goal. Seroiusly??? o-O

    On the match though, Barca were so disorganised at the back it’s not even funny. Once Sevilla scored, they seemed a bit edgy and were running around like headless chicken. Worse is seeing Busi and Pique trying to run back and never catching the player. It was inevitable that they equalised. Messi does next to nothing all game long only to come up with the winning play and good thing Alexis has found confidence coz, last yr he probably would have missed that.

    Sevilla were unlucky today. They had a good game just like Emery’s CL team last year that lost 2-3. Sevilla must hate playing us now. Last yr at home they also lost in the last minutes as well after some dodgy ref calls. I aint complaining. 3 points for us, VISCA BARCA!!!!

    1. Very true. But no referee is going to blow for time when a play is active, as in a possible scoring chance. Never mind that Sevilla celebrated into injury time, or that they should have been down to 10 just we were until Messi decided to wake up.

      That ref was crap all around, not just against Sevilla.

    2. The game is over when the referee blows his whistle, not when the time “runs out”. It’s at his discretion, that’s why they have added time in the first place. No ref is going to stop an active play, they always wait until there is a dead ball or a foul or some other reason to stop play. Silliness.

  5. Neymarrrrrr! Kid may have a future in football. MOTM.

    Thought Pique and Masch were both good, for MOST of the game. Have no idea if man marking played a part in the second Sevilla goal, but we need to either make some serious readjustments, or reconsider what we’re doing.

    Thought Iniesta and Xavi played well, but Cesc continues what I believe will be a banner year.

    Really, the only dark spots were our first 2 goal scorers. Dani’s crossing has never been that accurate, but now it seems he’s making terrible short passes as well. Hopefully he’ll snap out of it. Messi was also terrible until the end, but it’s after the break, and no way I’m betting the reign is over yet.

    All in all, whew!

  6. Nice to see ATM and Barca topping the table with the same for and against goals. They seem stronger this year ATM and will definitely give the two big teams a run for their money. At least we don’t play them until just before the winter break. Glad the teams in La liga are not just folding over for either team as well.

    I think i will need that defibrillator this season 😉

  7. Btw, thanks for sharing Eklavya. I thought you were a girl all this while. Anyways, from the photo of Iniesta, it looks like you were actually on the pitch and not in the stand. Did you jump on to the pitch?

  8. I wish all those EPL fans boys who always tease liga, had watched how the ‘two horses’ of liga were suffering yesterday. Both Barca and Madrid were on the edge yesterday. Very happy we came through.
    If Villareal were good in finishing, it would have been an embarassment for Real – 4-2?? Deigo Lopez was excellent, but the whole Villareal team was brilliant, except for their finishing. Almost all their players looked technically excellent.

    I am afraid, by the end of season, we all would be discussing, why the hell we didnt buy a defender. Our defense is not crap, but they miss out on some key moments, even without trying. They gave a free goal to sevilla, didnt they.
    But our passing in the final third was beautiful, except for some terrible short passing by Alves. He is now brought his cross style to short passes too?
    Did Messi and Neymar agree on terms to shine at different halfs?
    That was unbelievable, the winning goal. Also a big arguement for anybody wanting to sub Messi off – better bring him as a Sub in the second half. With Messi on the pitch, there is always a hope.

    1. Yeah, Villareal is amazing. Imagine if Rossi wasn’t released. What a success story. I hope they can maintain this form.

      Messi wasn’t as bad I think. A lot of neat passes but yeah he could’ve ran more and stop trying to dribble 4 players. I like Messi dropping deep to get the ball but I shriek every time he tries to dribble 2-3 players in the middle of the park. When he loses it, it’ll always become a dangerous counter attack.

      Usually the passing doesn’t click after the international break but they don’t seem to have any problems with it last night. Where was this tiki taka vs Malaga and Atletico (was in Korea when they played Valencia so I don’t know if it was tiki taka)?

  9. That push from M’Bia on Neymar was an obvious foul but it would have been a pretty soft red card for me though. I don’t know. I find football rules a bit strange. There is always more leniency for the 2nd yellow which I find unfair.

    If the ref gives the offender a 2nd yellow = red card, people will cry soft red but if he doesn’t get a red, he knows he will be able to get a way with numerous soft fouls. I guess, this discussion can be saved for another day.

    I can’t believe how M’Bia didn’t think it was a foul. A lot of players act the same way even though it is obvious that they have committed a foul. Most of the footballers don’t seem to mind to cheat people. I wish they were more professional and honest.

  10. Indeed, who among us turned off the telly/computer/walked away in disgust when Pepsi scored that last minute Sevilla goal? Ye of little faith? Well, I for one, did – I felt exasperated, enraged. How could Barca throw away a 2-goal lead just like that? When they should have sealed the victory a long time ago? Like why did Neymar pass the ball back to Messi that time when he should have just slotted it in?! Nevertheless, I crept back in to watch the last minute of extra time, lured by — I don’t know what, that fucking crazy Barca magic I suppose — if any team can do the impossible, surely… And there went Messi ploughing through the back-line like a driven man and lo-and-behold, blessed Alexis popped out of the doldrums to place all our cule faith back in place.
    This should be the narrative of the today’s game: how our team achieves the extraordinary despite everything. A lashing of Saturday evening magic. Not that our defence is like a sieve, or that corners/free kicks are cule instant death. As Masche said a few days ago, “many times Barça lapses into self-destructive tendencies, because we don’t stop to enjoy our successes.” Indeed, fuck the begrugers. Celebrate the impossible!

    1. Never give up on your football club. Ever. Win or lose, stand by them and give your full support. It doesn’t matter if they screw up, or vex or annoy. In for the glory, in for the sadness and frustration.

    2. Walking away from the tv is one thing, but I can’t really understand those people in the stadium who leave early when the team is losing. Paid so much and so grateful to be able to watch them live, why leave early. Not just in Camp Nou, but other teams as well.

  11. Villa scored a goal that he wouldn’t have been able to last season or 2. He looks so confident at Atletico.

    1. Because he is being given space at Atletico because of how opponents are playing them. At Barça, he was not being given space. That is the most significant difference. Were he to return to our club tomorrow, he would look exactly as he did last season with us. Space is key, particularly for a player who can’t beat defenders 1v1.

    2. I can’t disagree with you as what you’re saying is spot on but I was talking about the goal that he scored, not his overall play.

      With us, he would hit it softly and try to hit it on target. That was a sign of a player on low confidence. I’ve watched 2 goals of his now at Atletico, the other one against us, where he had so much confidence in himself. He chooses a spot and strikes the ball with purpose and venom to the corner.

    3. I’d agree partly with this assessment. Villa is no Neymar and Neymar is a better choice for us on the left wing. However, he is a natural goal scorer and doesn’t need space in his best position. He creates enough for his shot. He has a better first touch than our other forwards and had he been played in the centre and played regularly we would have reaped benefits. Anyway, water under the bridge now.

  12. Masch was brilliant last night, cooly killing off every counter in their cradles.

    He was everywhere on the pitch and the nou camp busy chanting his name they said.
    finally things got messier even for him.

    If we play busi & masch in front of two proper cbs, subbing off xavi/ini in dying moments we might at least curb this last minutes silliness

    & bartra will get his precious minutes- might renew with us -everybody is happy.

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