Spain’s three-week master class in prudent, patient application of effort (a.k.a., playing Spanish possum)

4 Comments

Admittedly, claiming a major tournament on a thoughtful platform of efficiency and “prudent conservation” isn’t so sexy.

It’s certainly not as alluring or intoxicating as, say, creating history by mercilessly punishing a litany of hapless opposition, by winning through a series of lopsided results.

Spain may reign today, but everyone had hoped for more of that flashy 4-0 flourish along the way. We wanted to be treated to more of the Spanish hammer (as in Sunday’s Kiev kick-around) rather than seeing the champs chisel deliberately away with the precision tools.

But the manner in which Spain just made history really deserves proper recognition. Because the Spanish just stitched together a masterpiece – never mind some unappreciative grumbling along the way about Spain making its case in underwhelming style.

But Vicente del Bosque didn’t bring Spain to Eastern Europe to wow and impress in first-round matches or in some early elimination contest. They came to make grand history, and such high ambition cannot be entrusted to breathless unrestraint.

We may have wanted to be entertained; but Spain simply wanted to win, coveting that unprecedented third major tournament title (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012). So win they did, through patient self-regulation, through the tricky tenets of “doing just enough.”

We talked for three weeks of Spain never achieving the best version of itself, about apparent contentment and the need for blessed discontent, about possibly lacking that final, telling pang of hunger.

But did we have it wrong all along? Was del Bosque (pictured) simply having his men play a little Spanish possum en route to Sunday’s final in Kiev?  We all wondered where the “real” Spain might be hiding. In reality, they just didn’t need to be “full Spain” very often.

source:  They wisely determined just how much of the full Spanish treatment three successful weeks in Poland and Ukraine would require. So they got a lead and then got smart time and again, dropping the energy output a smidge – while the rest of us selfishly shouted “Go, go, go! … Why won’t they go?”

All that passing, passing, passing – the possession for possession’s sake that sometimes looked like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and the rest were cruising down a highway but content to travel at a safer “school zone speed.”

It made us wonder if Spain was vulnerable. In truth, we weren’t giving Spain sufficient credit for thinking this one through.  Italian manager Cesare Prandelli took in ample praise for getting things right against Germany, and deservedly so. But what about that wily ol’ del Bosque, a cunning Spanish fox who got it right in a bigger way.

Let’s not forget, this really is a grueling tournament. The teams Sunday in Kiev were playing their sixth match in 22 days. That’s one contest about every three and a half days – and what a taxing, debilitating slog it is.

Early Sunday the ESPN announcers wondered why del Bosque’s men couldn’t look more like they did in extra time against Portugal, when they leaned in for further offensive push, pinning the Portuguese back with the extra run, the quicker pass, the earlier ball forward and the higher intensity, generally.

But again, perhaps we weren’t giving Spain enough credit for managing the energy level, for always keeping a restrictor plate on this classic car, for doing just enough and leaving plenty in reserve.

Don’t forget, this is a Spanish team that won a World Cup by scoring eight goals (Just eight, in seven matches!), another lesson in patient application of effort. So perhaps trophy acquisition at Euro 2012 by way of wise conservation shouldn’t have been surprising at all.

By the 60th minute Sunday, Italy looked exhausted. Yes, it was unfortunate the Azzurri had to finish with 10 men, but Prandelli’s unit would likely have been similarly pooped with 11.

The Italians, not quite good enough to hold something back and still steer through the elimination rounds, were spent.

Spain, one of the best teams of all time (there can be little argument now) could afford to pace the enterprise a bit. They did so expertly.

Day Six: All the action from the U20 World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the second consecutive tournament, the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is poised to qualify for the knockout stages of the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.

[ MORE: U-20 World Cup latest

In its second match of this year’s edition in South Korea, the U.S. earned an important three points in a 1-0 victory over Senegal, while its main rivals Ecuador fell, 2-1 to Saudi Arabia. The win shot the U.S. up to first place in Group F with four points while Senegal and Saudi Arabia sit just below with three points. Ecuador occupies the final spot in the group with one point through two games.

Seventeen-year-old Josh Sargent scored for the second straight game and the defensive unit anchored by Erik Palmer-Brown and Cameron Carter-Vickers in central defense held tight to earn the U.S. a clean sheet. The U.S. finishes up the group stage on Sunday against Saudi Arabia.

In Group E action, France thrashed Vietnam 4-0 and New Zealand defeated Honduras 3-1.

Click on the link above for all the latest news from the U-20 World Cup, while below are video highlights from Thursday’s four games in Groups E and F.

Group E

USA 1, Senegal 0

Saudi Arabia 2, Ecuador 1

Group F

France 4, Vietnam 0

New Zealand 3, Honduras 1

Rooney left off England squad for matches with Scotland, France

Getty Images
Leave a comment

This summer could be the start of a new era with the England National Team.

England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney was left out of Gareth Southgate‘s 25-man squad ahead of a pair of international matches in June. England faces Scotland on June 10 in a World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park before traveling to the Stade de France three days later for a friendly match with Les Blues.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

While Rooney didn’t make the squad, his Manchester United teammate Marcus Rashford did make the team, with Southgate preferring him to be with the senior squad instead of play for England’s Under-21s at the UEFA Under-21 Championship this June in Poland.

“He’s in the senior squad on merit, and has been for a year,” Southgate said to FA.com. “He had one game with the Under-21s when I was there in September and he was outstanding that day, but he’s not really been a part of the Under-21 squad. His performances warrant him being in the senior squad.”

Other notable inclusions in the squad are Tottenham right back Kieran Trippier, who is in line for his first senior international cap, as well as 34-year-old Sunderland forward Jermain Defoe, coming off back-to-back Premier League seasons with 15 league goals.

If Rooney’s time with the Three Lions is over, it would mark a true changing of the guard in the England squad. Rooney, who has 119 caps and is England’s all-time leading goal scorer with 53 goals, made his debut in 2003 in a friendly match against Australia, at the time becoming the youngest player to make his England debut at the age of 17. The record was broken by Theo Walcott.

Rooney came to prominence with the Three Lions with a burst in Euro 2004 in Portugal, leading England to the quarterfinals. Perhaps England could have gone farther if Rooney hadn’t broken a bone in his foot and had to limp off in the first half of England’s ouster against Portugal.

Since then, it’s been a mixed bag for Rooney. While he’s scored bags of goals, he’s never really lived up to the hype in the big tournaments.

Under his watch, England’s never made it past the quarterfinals in either the World Cup or European Championships and he’s been part of big disappointments, including failing to qualify for Euro 2008 and getting bounced by Iceland in Euro 2016. England also failed to make it out of the group stage at the last World Cup.

It’s possible that Southgate left Rooney off the squad purely based on form as Defoe was included, but it could be a sign of things to come, which is a chance for younger players like John Stones, Alli and Kane to take leadership positions within the team.

Stream Live: USA takes on Senegal at U20 World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team is halfway home in its second game of the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup group stage, holding a 1-0 lead over Senegal after Josh Sargent’s left-footed blast.

[ LIVE: USA U-20 vs. Senegal ] 

Tab Ramos’ side came back to draw Ecuador 3-3 in a wild first game of the tournament but after losing central midfielder Gedion Zelalem, holding midfielder Derrick Jones has moved into the starting lineup and provided more stability in the center of the park.

Below you can watch a replay of Sargent’s first-half goal and above is a link to stream the U.S. game live via Telemundo Deportes.

LAFC makes plan for training complex east of downtown

Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) The MLS expansion Los Angeles Football Club plans to spend $30 million to build a training complex on the campus of Cal State LA.

LAFC revealed its proposal Wednesday after the plans were approved by the California State University Board of Trustees.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

LAFC will renovate the university’s stadium field while constructing a complex to house its players, staff and coaches, along with the LAFC Academy youth development team.

The team’s two-story training building will be financed entirely by LAFC’s deep-pocketed ownership group. LAFC also committed to donate $1.5 million to the university.

The complex will be located on the north campus of Cal State LA, just 10 miles east of Banc of California Stadium. LAFC will begin MLS play in its under-construction downtown arena in March.