Friday, June 23, 2006

World Cup Update

Captain Raúl Gomez has yet to feature in the starting eleven though he did score the all-important equaliser in the last match against Tunisia. Meanwhile the media are of course insinuating a conflict between manager Luis Aragónes and the out of favour skipper who is understandably desperate to win back his place on the team. Unfortunately for him the competition for a first eleven place is extremely high with the ever improving Fernando Torres being a definite choice by his lifetime mentor Aragónes. “El Niño” Torres who is highest goal scorer of the tournament thus far is unintentionally stealing the limelight and credit for any good that Raúl might have done, while 19-year-old Cesc Faberges is attributed with having single handily powered the come back against Tunisia. Perhaps number 7 wearing Raúl is finally realising that his glory days as football hero are slowly coming to an end.

Now that Spain have secured their place in the last sixteen, Aragones has stated that he intends to rest his usual starters for the match against Saudi Arabia and therefore grant 6 players their World Cup debuts. Remarkably the Real Madrid Galactico, 30 year old Michel Salgado is among these. This is an unusual luxury for a Spanish World-Cup manager and the old men in my local bar give unanimous approval to the decision after seeing what has become of England’s Michael Owen.

Returning to the theme of synical support, it has been commented to me that perhaps one reason for the overly apathetic public in recent years is that they are so used to their clubs dominating Europe and the World over. As a result it has always been a hard come down when the national side consistently performed so badly and failed to dominate. Many struggle to understand this history of contrasting fortunes. Be that as it may, I feel that this is something that can easily change as is suggested by the scenes in Plaza Colon, one of Madrid’s more monumental squares, where a large screen has been erected for the last two games. The first saw an estimated 10,000 converge on the location, the second produced a crowd of 15,000 and today one can easily guess what the turn out might be. Having said that, people are a lot less hyped up for this third match that is of no real consequence to their overall campaign.

However regardless of the unexpected ecstasy of the ever growing Spanish fan base, we still must ask ourselves the reason behind the previously mentioned bonus of €504,000 (highest of the tournament and triple that of Brazil) on offer to the team in the event that they win the Cup. As I see it (from my bar stool) the World Cup is every players dream. It is the ultimate football glory. So why the need to sweeten them up with such an immoral wad of notes. Do the federation really have that little faith in the spirit and drive of their footballers that they need to offer this? Is it their fear that the players of an ever more regionalist Spain do not have the unified identity that is needed in order to function as a team and keep the fires alight in their bellies?

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