No, there she was in Scotland, with those impossibly green eyes, reporting that Vincente Del Bosque was cold sitting in the stands. I suppose it’s a fair observation; Del Forest and his entire staff were violently shivering. This Spanish squad was so unlikable all of a sudden.
Perhaps it was the work rate of the Scots, Mr. Miller especially. Or maybe it was the counter-attacks sprung by beautiful long passes, as opposed to lucky hoove-ings. Those blue uniforms sure were pleasant in HD as well. Now, normally rooting for any team with Darren Fletcher on it would give me an ulcer so let me be clear, I was not rooting for Scotland. I simply found myself annoyed with Spain.
Spain used to be plucky and cursed - the blueprint for beautiful soccer. Tonight they were uninspiring. Sergio Busquets looked so bored that at one point I watched him jog in circles for 45 seconds straight. Santi Cazorla is not very good at soccer. And I still don’t understand how Capdevilla starts for this team every single game. I swear, every time some team scores on Spain, I can’t find him in the picture, though he’s not at fault either. Iniesta showed some effort I guess, and so did Villa, though neither of them seemed particularly fired up about anything. The team looked complacent.
I can’t blame them for being complacent, not when every beer commercial “salutes the winners of the World Cup!” and the announcers gush over a simple give-and-go from the world champs. And what’s with those World Cup patches on the Barcelona uniforms? I think the issue is that before, since they had no success, you couldn’t accuse them of going through the motions. Though that seemed exactly like what they did in Scotland tonight.
The first half saw a few typical half chances by Spain, generated by X.Alonso and Iniesta. But it was the Scots on the counter that gave the match some energy. On Scotlands most clear chance of the first half – a 2 on 2 break set off by a stunning, arcing pass to Miller – the announcers cried, “This is what we feared, what with 10 of them behind half.” I bet the booth didn’t realize the Scots could put a nice fade on that long-ball like that though. Well, Pique at least didn’t.
On the aforementioned break, Miller ends up doffing the pass and grabs his face in horror as the ball deflects out of bounds. A few minutes later, a very harsh handball awards Spain a penalty just before half. The keeper gets his hand on it, but Villa still scores. He passes (or ties) Raul for the all-time Spanish scorer record but you wouldn’t know from his expression because he barely celebrates it.
So here we are; a harsh penalty, Iker Casillas’ girlfriend, and a boring Spanish squad looking like they just need to show up these days to get a W. Surely Scotland wouldn’t let them get away with this, right?
The second half begins and the Spaniards look like they have a bit more pep in their strides. David Silva, who so far is on track for fraud status, redeems himself with a few menacing shots. Before you know it, Iniesta collects a fortuitous deflection inside the box and coolly slots it home, 2-nil to the best World Cup winners on earth. We haven’t reached the hour mark yet and the bartender, who asked me, “Who are we playing tonight?… Scotland… are you sure? Really? Scotland?… well, 3-nil at a minimum am I right hahahaha” is looking so fucking hahahaha right.
Oh wait! Scotland responds! The energizer bunny, Miller, finds his teammate with a lovely cross. Ramos doesn’t track back; you signed up for that though; and Pique doesn’t look over his shoulder. By the time Pique turns and sees the flying header, his facial expression is that of finding your own unflushed poop in the toilet bowl. 2 to 1, the home team is back in it. No matter who you root for, it’s nice to see the home crowd leave with something; those poor white faces were freezing!
Oh my goodness, Pique with an own-goal! You can’t even blame him either, that cross was going in the back of the net one way or another. I glance at the bartender and pretend to be upset. He looks genuinely concerned. Just like that is 2-2!
Well, you know how this story ends. The alarmingly handsome Fernando Llorente comes on for the awful Santi Cazorla, and everyone in the world knows he’s going to score. Llorente wins every header from a goal-kick that has ever come his way. He gets himself in position better than a center-fielder does a pop-fly. His footwork is amazing, period, not just for someone his size. Most importantly, he still has that hunger. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s the guy who was substituted on in front of Cesc Fabregas consistently during the World Cup. He plays for Athletico Bilbao… for now. And it’s Mr. Llorente who reads a cross perfectly, and volleys it past the keeper. He has yet to break a sweat and it’s his third goal for Spain in two games.