Spain: The Greatest Team Ever?

By Peter Alegi | July 2nd, 2012 5 Comments

Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and now Euro 2012 champions. Spain’s 4-0 demolition of Italy in yesterday’s final in Kiev secured their third consecutive major tournament victory in the last four years. The question many are asking today is whether La Roja is the greatest team in the history of football.

Hundreds of millions of TV viewers watching the final in pubs, homes, and public venues around the world witnessed Spain’s best performance of the Euros. Propelled by Xavi’s sudden resurgence and Del Bosque’s flawless tactics, lineup, and game management, the Spanish tiki-taka approached a near-perfect synthesis of art and science. Meanwhile Italy’s tired legs and coach Prandelli’s naive decision to deploy 2 strikers, no defensive midfielders, and field injured Chiellini, De Rossi and even Motta (as a final substitute!) exposed the substantial qualitative gap separating the two finalists.

While my emotional wounds from enduring such a hideous hiding are still raw, I’m interested in what people have to say about how Spain 2008-12 compares, say, with Brazil 1970? Germany 1972-74? Or even Uruguay 1924-1930 and Hungary 1950-54 if we delve into a radically different media era? Should we consider club teams too? Real Madrid 1955-60, Ajax 1971-73, Milan 1989-90, and Barcelona 2009-2011 immediately come to mind.

Here are my top 5:

1. Uruguay 1924-30 (winners of 1924 & 1928 Olympics and 1930 World Cup)

2. Spain 2008-2012

3. Brazil 1970 (good case for the best ever, but won only one title)

4. Hungary 1950-54 (undefeated, 42 wins and 7 draws).

5. Barcelona 2009-11 (FIFA Club World Cup: 2009, 2011; Champions League: 2008–09, 2010–11; UEFA Super Cup: 2009, 2011; La Liga: 2008–09, 2009–10, 2010–11; Copa del Rey: 2008–09, 2011–12; Supercopa de España: 2009, 2010, 2011)

What do you think? Share your rankings in the comment section!


Filed under: Players



July 2nd, 2012 | 11:19 am    

The thing about this Spanish team is how do you compete with a team that keeps the ball to themselves? Spain’s superiority considered, Italy just gave La Roja too much time and space on the ball. The second Super Mario touched the ball; there were at least three players around him. Yet, check how much time and space Xavi was allowed to set up the goals he did.


July 2nd, 2012 | 11:36 am    

The second goal really made me cringe. We lost the ball in midfield then stood around absolutely immobile while (A) the only Spanish player around, Jordi Alba, darted through our lines, and (B) Xavi — of all players! — was given so much time on the ball that he could wait, look up, pick his spot, and then feed an assist through to Jordi Alba (who still did well to finish like a striker). Our slow central defenders — Barzagli and Bonucci — were exposed, big time. Think of the first goal when Bonucci walked merrily in the box while David Silva sprinted ahead to meet Fabregas’s cross.
Two more crucial episodes went Spain’s way in the 2nd half: Di Natale’s blown chance in the 49th minute and Motta’s injury and exit. While now it seems obvious that the 5-man midfield Prandelli used in the group stage game was more likely to limit Spanish possession, in the end it probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome. A more dignified loss perhaps?


July 2nd, 2012 | 1:02 pm    

Spain saved their best performance until the last game and blew Italy away!

I wonder how we should compare those teams? In terms of possession? Attacking prowess? Free flowing positive football? On these terms Spain have proven to be way ahead of every one else. With 6 men going forward and all being able to score other teams will respond by parking the bus in future tournaments. Brazil in 1970 were a different class as they practically rescued football from stagnation. What Ajax did for club football Brazil in 1970 did for national sides. Much less celebrated than Holland but far more suceesful were Germany in the 1970s, winning the Euros in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974 and almost set the blue print for Spain this year but Hoenneß’ missed penalty gave the Czech Republic the title. However, had they won the tournament in 1976 it would have been 3 in a row as they won the 1980 tournament. It is difficult to judge teams from different eras as the parameters of the game were different then and now.


July 2nd, 2012 | 2:27 pm    

Not many people think of another Brazilian era, but between 1994 and 2007 La Seleção won 2 World Cups (1994 & 2002), 4 Copa Americas (1997, 1999, 2004, 2007) and was runner up at the 1998 World Cup and 1995 Copa America–a dominating stretch.

It was a different Brazil that lacked the flair of players like Socrates, Zico, Pele, Garrincha, Jairzinho, and Rivellino. However, Romario, Ronaldo, Kaka, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo were not too shabby either in their prime. The biggest problem with this Brazil was that it lacked a consistent core over this stretch, with players entering and leaving the picture and no defining style like Holland’s “total football.”

As far as best teams I’ve seen, it would be 1. Barcelona (2008-present) 2. AC Milan (1988-1994) 3. Spain (2008-present). You can also add DC United 1996-1999 (I kid, I kid)

Alex Galarza

July 4th, 2012 | 12:00 pm    

Conclusive proof that Brazil 1970 was not the best team of all time:

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