Monday, July 02, 2012

Revisionist Theories

We are all 'guilty' of comparing things from different eras, whether that be football teams, television programmes, albums etc, it's part of the human condition, these collective memories are benchmarks or standards by which we consciously or unconsciously judge subsequent occurrences. The Spanish football teams success at the weekend has divided critics into two groups based almost exclusively on age with those old enough to remember the great Brazil side of 1970 labelling them as the team to which the young Spanish side must aspire to.

Certainly that Brazil side, and to a lesser extent the Dutch side of 1974-1978, set standards of play which other teams aspired to but couldn't match and I suspect it will be the same with the Spanish.

The Dutch side in particular is the one where better comparisons can be drawn than the Brazilian one. Holland had undergone a revolution in its approach to youth football when firstly Feyenoord (in 1962), others followed, decided to scrap using full size football pitches for players under the age of 12. This simple act, combined with the emergence of total football, paved the way for a style of football that would be taken from Holland to Spain by its greatest exponent, Johann Cruyff, and used to transform Spanish football. A revolution that as we speak has seen Spanish national sides win not only the senior European Championships but also the Under-21 Championship (in 2011) and the Under 19's Championship.

I saw one comment on Goal.com which said that the Spanish had achieved something that the great Brazil side couldn't do, namely winning two European Championships and a World Cup - well let's be honest, they would have had problems winning the Euros wouldn't they! What Brazil did do however was win the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups - in the 1966 tournament they were the victims of sone black arts from Portugal.

Brazil had eleven world beaters during 1970, it would be difficult to think of many players from outside of that all conquering team who could have made some fantasy Brazilian team. Certainly Bobby Moore and Gordon Banks from England, Gerd Muller and Franz Beckenbauer from West Germany would have improved the squad but beyond that you would be struggling. The Spanish side of 2010 could only really be improved by substiuting Ashley Cole for Joan Capdevilla and Lionel Messi for Pedro Rodriquez.

I suppose if 'sporting legacy' is the true test of greatness then it will take more than a couple of days for the impact of Spain's achievements 2008-2012 to be assessed but right now it's difficult to argue with the argument for Brazil being the greatest international side of all time with, for me at least, the Dutch side of Johann Cruyff being second and Spain a close third.

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