We give up lads, you can have it
The FA, who can always be relied upon to completely miss a trick, abjectly failed to take advantage of some joint marketing potential last month, scheduling England’s friendly with Spain for Saturday (which is in November) and not for the weekend of Halloween (which wasn’t). You can’t help but get the feeling that a festival now associated with horror and scary stuff would suit the World Cup winners, because quite frankly, their squad is downright terrifying.
Even more pertinently, the sexification of Halloween, which has somehow yielded a culture in which dressing as a sex worker covered in blood qualifies as a ‘costume’ (a ‘sexy witch’? Really?), coincides readily with the Spanish sexification of football, itself a pagan festival which has now descended into total overblown farce.
Oh happy coincidental metaphor. The case of Spain visiting England, however, is slightly different, for there is extreme beauty in this terror, and not only from the fact that England’s Brave John Terry is going to be given the bloody runaround by not only his own clubmate (currently unable to score at club level, cue hat trick at Wembley), but by some of the finest attacking minds in football.
A brief aside: Whether or not you believe Terry should be playing for England this weekend, you can’t deny the man has big brass balls. Big brass balls and completely misguided self-belief. The kind of brass-balled lunacy that has got him out of enough fairly unforgivable scrapes in the past, simply by virtue of being convinced that absolutely nothing happened. The kind of unrelenting, irrational, idiotic certainty that suggests if he really put his mind to believing it, there really could be an old man with a white beard freezing his tits off in Lapland this Christmas. Or that England could compete over the course of a tournament with this Spain team.
Spain’s squad for this completely meaningless friendly that they could probably win with a reserve XI has a reasonable case to be considered the strongest in international football. Like, ever. Look at it:
Casillas, Reina, Valdes;
Sergio Ramos, Arbeloa, Puyol, Pique, Jordi Alba, Raul Albiol, Nacho Monreal;
Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Santi Cazorla, Javi Martinez, Fabregas, Iniesta;
David Villa, Silva, Torres, Llorente, Mata, Jesus Navas
LOOK AT IT. We might as well all just go home now. Upon reading that, only the following two responses are permissible: a) literally shitting the bed or b) weeping at the sheer sublime terror of it all.
This is the kind of squad that turns up at Wembley with Casillas badgering Vicente del Bosque to play up front like keepers ALWAYS do when it's going to be easy. 'Put Reina in net and me at centre forward boss. Just for 15 minutes at the end. PLEASE'.
This is also the kind of squad that has no room for Thiago Alacantra, Ander Herrera or Sergio Canales, for example, players that would be being rushed into Fabio Capello’s side a la Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jack Rodwell. And in that little nugget lies a further indication of its claims to be the greatest – the continuation. There might have been a Portuguese golden generation at the turn of the century (and a French one), a Brazil class of 1970, a great Dutch side of ’74, but this Spanish squad looks like it will just keep producing new Xavis (Herrera), new Iniestas (Canales) and so on ad infinitum.
Watching Spain’s under 21 side in the summer in Denmark at times was figuratively the equivalent of watching the violent and clinical death of English football. Death by a thousand passes. Terrifying. And beautiful. The side that beat Switzerland in the final comprised such phenomenal talents as Mata, Martinez, Herrera, Thiago, Iker Muniain and David De Gea. Consider this: Bojan Krcic (remember him) cannot even get in the under-21 squad.
Here at Magic Spongers, we’ve been saying for years now that England suffer from their high seedings in qualification and tournament finals, finding themselves bewildered when the first team offering any modicum of technical aptitude forces them onto a plane back to their ungrateful media. And we stand by that – the English national side need more realistic indicators of their station and everyone knows it (or should know it, WRIGHTY). But come on, Spain? SPAIN? At least let Lamps et al kick the Dutch or the Portuguese around the park for 65 minutes before losing 3-0. That would at least be fair.
As a preparatory game for a major tournament, this couldn’t be a more stupid choice. ‘Blooding’ young players here will be a catastrophe – look at how good Jordan Henderson’s been since his England debut against France. Senior players missing; John Terry ostensibly picked ON FORM. Micah Richards left out. If Capello and the FA are trying to manage expectations ahead of the trip to Poland and Ukraine – evident in their choice of hotel and training facilities – this could be the weekend that quashes them altogether. Which is no bad thing certainly; a more pragmatic approach to supporting Team England has always been the savant’s choice.
But full circle and back to Spain. Having just trashed the media’s propensity for hyperbole in this and many of our other pieces – 198 of the bastards, check them out – it’s time to be contradictory, for this is something that really does require some amplification. Take another second to look at that Spain squad again. It’s fucking astonishing, it really is. Never mind the fact that it will toy with England like a dog half-heartedly chewing a bone: cast your imagination ahead to next summer when those players take to the fields of Ukraine and Poland. In fact, never mind a historic third consecutive tournament win. This squad could just be the best one ever. Cherish it.