Spain's secret of World Cup success
SpainÃ¢ÂÂs oft-displayed disgust of Italian football is largely driven by envy.
So much so, it seems, that the initial gameplan of Spain in South Africa was to lift the World Cup in a manner that would make those pasta-chompers in Pisa weep with pride: by failing to win a single match in a conventional fashion all the way through to the final.
However, the message from the Spain camp since WednesdayÃ¢ÂÂs defeat to Switzerland is that this plan has been cast onto the tapas bar floor of history with the realisation that the general gist of this summerÃ¢ÂÂs footballing get-together is to win matches, thus allowing progress to the remaining stages of the tournament.
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂre going to face the game as if itÃ¢ÂÂs a final!Ã¢ÂÂ bellowed Vicente del Bosque, finally grasping the concept of cups. Ã¢ÂÂThis is a final for us!Ã¢ÂÂ whooped Carles Puyol in agreement.
Ã¢ÂÂOur side plays better football than anyone else and is going to face each match as if it were a final!Ã¢ÂÂ cheerleadered the Lady Macbeth of the La SelecciÃÂ³n, Sara Carbonero, waving her pom-poms with gay abandon.
Although the various evil corporations who have paid good money to use the desperately bad acting skills of the Spanish squad in their TV spots have increased the frequency of the adverts, with The Man realising that a World Cup elimination could be a matter of hours away, there is a general vibe from the Spanish camp of confidence and calm ahead of the clash with Honduras.
Ã¢ÂÂWe arenÃ¢ÂÂt going to change our style just because of one defeat,Ã¢ÂÂ claims Xabi Alonso, a message repeated by former Liverpool team-mate Fernando Torres who has been well and truly spooked by the notion of FIFA detention facilities and their rigorous rogue-state ways.
Ã¢ÂÂIf we die, then we will die following our own ideas, not by attempting something different,Ã¢ÂÂ claimed the striker that some predict will be starting for Spain alongside Davids Villa and Silva, with AndrÃÂ©s Iniesta still struggling with a muscle twang.
Should the worst happen on Monday night in Ellis Park then MarcaÃ¢ÂÂs pet referee Rafa Guerrero is already blaming the man in the middle for the defeat. JapanÃ¢ÂÂs Yuichi Nishimura is the wrong choice, complains Guerrero, because he has insufficient international experience and Ã¢ÂÂfollows the rules to the letter of the law, like a good JapaneseÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂtends to be excessively rigorous.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂIf there has to be some kind of gesture to the Oriental world then let it be peaceful and celebratory in a Japanese restaurant after the game,Ã¢ÂÂ opines the former ref.
Incidentally, Rafa also moans that Howard Webb, the referee for the Switzerland clash, wasnÃ¢ÂÂt rigorous enough and Ã¢ÂÂfailed to see the offside for the Swiss goal and the penalty on Silva,Ã¢ÂÂ making every word of MondayÃ¢ÂÂs column the gibberings of a clueless buffoon.
The two main Spanish supporters, Marca and AS, are split down the middle on how things are going to go. The former are calling for a tonking to remind the rest of the world who's really wearing the title-favourite trousers at this World Cup.
MondayÃ¢ÂÂs editorial claims that the dark days of pessimism are over and that Ã¢ÂÂSpain now face crucial matches with the character of winners and this personality is enough to bring confidence that we are going to save the situation. And score a lot of goals, too.Ã¢ÂÂ
AS are in more of a skittish mood, with director Alfredo RelaÃÂ±o unsure that Del Bosque has the team's line-up quite right. Ã¢ÂÂHe has given SennaÃ¢ÂÂs job to two players, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets,Ã¢ÂÂ moans the chief AS man before dithering over whether Torres, Cesc and Navas should be starting.
Now that the Spanish team have grasped the Ã¢ÂÂFinalsÃ¢ÂÂ concept of the World Cup, a victory is generally expected. However, a win by a fairly chunky margin is also being called for to give Spain every chance of topping their group and avoiding a possible clash with the handballing Brazilians in the next round.
A defeat and it will be heads-on-sticks, run-for-the-hills time in Spain with the side's nickname Ã¢ÂÂthe Red FuryÃ¢ÂÂ taking on a very different meaning indeed.