Style over substance costs Spain at Women’s Euro 2022

Style over substance costs Spain at Women’s Euro 2022

Spain failed to deliver | Naomi Baker/GettyImages

© Provided by 90min
Spain failed to deliver | Naomi Baker/GettyImages

In football, we maybe rely on the idea of a golden generation too often, and although there have been smaller nations who’ve managed to almost conquer the world with a once in a lifetime team – Ferenc Puskás’ Hungary, Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands and Michael Laudrup’s Denmark the obvious examples.

Increasingly, we see targeted investment and sustained success as one of the more important factors in (more) international success. 

The France men’s team from 1998, for instance, might have opened the door but they left it wide open for an endless stream of male and female footballers to follow in their wake. Yet, especially in women’s football, having a successful production line of players who cut their teeth through the youth levels (and tournaments) and enjoy that same success at senior level is rare.

To date, it’s really only the USA and Germany who’ve enjoy that kind of long-term success – although I’d be remiss not to mention France’s top-heavy teams in the same breath. 

Well, that was until Spain began to flex their muscles.

With the pathways greased for generation after generation of Spanish girls to flourish, as well as a fully full-time home league and notable stars in the team, Spanish women’s football is beyond primed to take its place in the spotlight. Yet here we are once more, with the nation having squeezed out of the group stage of a major tournament before failing to win a knockout match. 

The squad not only has a depth of talent that most nations could only dream of, but there are plenty more players waiting in the wings, ready to step up and make their names known. Just like the USA and Germany, there are no areas of the pitch left wanting, the production line that’s known for churning out a certain type of midfielder, equally as occupied with nurturing goalkeepers, defenders and yes, even honest to goodness number nines. 

However, for all the talent in the group of 23 Jorge Vilda called upon this summer and for all the strength to be found in Liga Iberdrola, there was a crushing inevitability about Spain’s early exit.

The way the team took to the pitch in their first two matches, exactly what you’d expect had you watched La Roja at other senior tournaments, the hapless way the players moved the ball around without much idea of how to break through defences. Of possession without purpose, of stylish but substanceless football.

It’s far too easy, but wrong, to call this Spain team a golden generation when we know of the players just waiting for their chance to shine who will (or should) be breaking through over the next few years but, it feels entirely rotten that such a talented group continue to toil at tournaments.

Alexia, Aitana, Amaiur, et al aren’t Spain’s golden generation, indeed Spain are beyond a point of only having one generation, but unless things change for La Roja, they are certain to suffer the same fate at major tournaments as Cruyff, Laudrup and Puskás.