Thursday, 8 July 2010
Only just watched the Spain/Germany Quarter Final, the highlights anyway. Must have been a difficult match to edit. Ought to be some kind of exemplar.
I heard bits of it on the night as I was eating in a hotel restaurant with all my colleagues; saw odd glimpses here and there on iPhones and, as it got darker, the occasional reflection in the windows. These parts signified the whole I thought; hypnotic (maybe boring), a very untense intensity.
I think someone on Twitter evoked Satriani as the guitar equivalent of Spain's technical, virtuous/virtuoso style of football and this reminded me of discussing Hendrix years ago when a friend turned off Electric Ladyland and said: "I can't listen to this. All the notes are in the right place. No flaws; it's not music anymore." And as we talked about this, it turned out that both of us liked only the bits of Hendrix that sounded a bit wrong, a little duff and that, in fact, this wasn't our unique indie-boy spin on Hendrix but these were the bits that most people liked.
Xavi, Iniesta et al are unlovable because of their virtuosity, that kind of thing is often annoying unless you happen to like Clapton. It's why the Sex Pistols sacked Glen Matlock and brought in Sid Vicious. It's why Usain Bolt has to try hard to develop a couldn't care less appearance. It's why we liked it that Socrates of Brazil and Johan Cruyff (even Gazza) smoked fifty thousand cigarettes a day.
It might be why we hate some of our colleagues. Why people find Martin Amis difficult. Why we need Mozart and Beethoven to be a bit mental. Why Jonathan Meades gets up people's noses with all his technically proficient, brilliantly conceived artistic smut.
Spain's game is unlovable because it's not a risky game to play but it's a difficult game to play. And exhausting; the pace (of the ball) might be missing but they need a massive physical effort to force those tight triangles. The style of play makes it essential that their players are in the right places at the right times (and that others are in equally dangerous but unused positions). I'd be interested to know what the distance travelled stats for Spain are: I'd imagine most of them cover a lot of ground before the passes are made.
And therein lies the problem. If people knew they were running hard, us English would like them more I think. We like a plucky trier. We like people to look like they're putting the effort in; it's why bankers have to stay in the office 'til 8 even though they're not doing anything. The Spanish make it look easy and that's not fair.
I heard that Spain had scored via a Spanish colleague dancing a mini-flamenco while a German colleague rolled her eyes. Everyone went dead. There was a brief longeur as everyone stopped eating and expected the old spectre: "Yeah but you can't ever rule out the Germans."
But no one said anything. It was a weird moment. No one believed that Germany would draw level. We hadn't discussed this but we didn't need to: it didn't seem possible.
A bit later, I thought about this, trying to figure out why people were reacting to the German team in such a way. This was the Germans, after all. And then it hit me: no one believes that Germany will pull one back because no one really believes that this is Germany. This German team seemed altogether less methodical and efficient (despite those terms still being applied by plenty of the TV Commentary teams), playing faster and looser and with various associated flaws. England and Argentina weren't comprehensively outplayed by Germany; they were sucker punched and then awe-struck. The Germans looked vulnerable at the back and suffered a lack of quality, game-changing, substitutes. In this way, the Germans were like England and Argentina; very beatable, only potentially wondrous. What if a team does stop Ozil? What if Schweinsteiger can't control the game? What if Muller was suspended? Well, you see where I'm going with this.
The Germans are an interestingly, excitingly flawed team; the team we love to love. The plucky (skillful) triers. This German team is part of a reinvention of German football that began, I think, at the last World Cup, where a less skillful team of plucky triers did well in spite of (because of?) their lack of star talent. Maybe they've always been plucky triers and we've only just noticed. Some awful collective amnesia has only made us think they were ever this ruthless, mechanised Will to win because... well, you know, I shouldn't have to spell it out... because of the...
In other words, could the Samba ever not have come from Brazil?
Anyway, it's these imperfections that we love and hate, in equal measure. Germans kick and rush, Mr Beckenbauer. All the teams we like do, a little. The rush bit is essential to our positive feelings. If only we could look at Spain and see the rush... But we can't. We're following the ball. And it seems to be moving so slowly...
The tick tock of Spain's passing, the grinding boot of The Netherlands +5% style are coming at us, taking over... Mark is right when he said on Twitter that the final, "looks so boring on paper that it might turn out to be a good match..."
Posted by Loki at 17:15