Rafa Benitez continues his Euro ’08 column with Spanish newspaper El Mundo, we continue the translated version here which reflects on Spain’s win over Russia…
Before talking about Spain’s uncontested win yesterday in their Euro Cup debut, I would like to say that for me it’s all about unconditional support. Unconditional support for good football, for the style of play shown by Germany, especially in the first half, against Poland. With might and resourcefulness, with the full-backs providing support in attack, and the midfielders creating chances and scoring goals.
Support for Holland’s offensive style, with special mentions to Sneijder and Kuyt. The first scored a goal, gave an assist and was a constant threat with his intelligent moves. The second showed, as always, his professionalism and team mentality, closing down the rival fullback, playing simple passes and adding two goal-assists which confirms that the good players are those that work for the benefit of the group and that, thanks to them, the star players are able to shine brighter because the entire group ends up winning.
Unconditional support for Spain. But unconditional in the good and bad times. It’s not support depending on the result; to criticize in a destructive manner there is always a time, and besides, it’s the easy thing to do. When someone is fully immersed in a competition, the important thing is to have unity, to respect and back the decisions taken by the people in charge and to do everything possible for things to go well. If the people in charge decide to play a certain style and choose the men they deem adequate to put it to practice, we must accept it and not side ourselves depending on the scoreline. It’s more honest to give an opinion based on reasoning beforehand so that you can back it later unconditionally.
I don’t like the pundits or experts who, sitting on their office desks, dedicate themselves to happily criticize a manager’s decisions while never stopping to think for a second why those decisions were made. Nor the fundamentalists with their positions- their mouths become full when they call them ‘œphilosophies’ or ‘œproposals’- who systematically criticize any idea that is different to theirs. Since I am a manager, it is very clear to me that the person in charge of a team tries to analyze all aspects before making a decision and has an advantage over any outsider: the daily contact with the players. For all these reasons, I insist on: unconditional support first and then constructive analysis until the Euro Cup is over, then there’ll be plenty of time for the summary trials.
Now yes, now I will focus on yesterday’s 4-1 victory. Spain definitely bet four midfielders who are mobile and have quality and took advantage of the Russian’s individual man-marking. They were losing their positioning and we were able to maintain possession. Once the first goal was scored, the Russians went forward and left spaces behind for the likes of Torres and Villa to exploit with their pace and intelligent runs. We had some problems, this is true, with their runs down the right flank, but the 2-0 on a counter-attack guided the way for us.
The start of second half was a continuation of the end of the first half. With Russia pushing forward and Spain controlling the ball and playing on the counter-attack. The difference was that Luis sacrificed Torres to add another player in-between the lines like Fabregas, trying to take more advantage, if possible, of our quality in midfield. The rest of the substitutions were to balance the team and add fresh legs. We saw a good understanding between Torres and Villa as long as Fernando was on the pitch and even afterwards. The hug on the sidelines after the 3-0 shows that there is good harmony between the two. In conclusion, Spain made a good impression, which could prove important for their self-esteem and, besides, to send a warning to their rivals. Congratulations.