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Spain's tiki-taka is TV turn-off
There were certain words that were sure to raise Peter Taylor’s hackles.
Drop the phrase “long ball” in a match report at your peril. Accuse City of playing a “direct” style and you could guarantee the mobile would soon be vibrating.
Taylor would dispute any suggestions his tactics were based on moving the ball forward with the minimum of touches. And you knew that Arsenal would then be thrown into the equation. They were Taylor’s stock fall-back to any hint of perceived criticism.
“Everybody plays that way at times, even Arsenal,” he would argue. “I’ve seen them go long for Van Persie but nobody talks about that.
“There are a lot of different ways to win football matches.”
My thoughts wandered back to some of those one-sided chats with the former Valley Parade manager while watching Spain pass the ball round and round their midfield against Portugal.
To the left, back again, to the right, back again, then back to the left. Another possession marathon and five yards have been gained.
Meanwhile, eyes drooped in front of TV sets all over Europe.
Four years ago, when Spain were crowned the continent’s champions in Vienna, we were all mesmerised by this ability to hang on to the ball for minutes on end.
Spain’s tiki-taka style, named after the punchy short passes and movement, was the way forward. Barcelona adopted the same method and both dominated the club and world stage.
But let’s face it, now they bore the pants off me. Judging by the barrage of abuse that swamped Twitter, I’m clearly not the only one.
Games involving the Spanish used to be must-see events; now you switch on the telly with a sense of dread.
France, thankfully, I missed but apparently it was another paint-drying exercise. The semi-final started promisingly with the Portuguese well up to the task of cramping their style but faded fast as the underdogs ran out of puff and ambition.
In the end, you wished Sky Plus had invented a fast forward button so we could all skip to penalties and stop prolonging the agony.
Instead of waiting for the gap before extra-time, I judged my tea break to coincide with the first 15-minute period. The dog was summoned for his night-time ablutions during the football instead of afterwards - anything to speed up the clock towards the game’s inevitable conclusion.
But who am I to argue about the tactics? Spain head into their third straight final tomorrow night on the back of a ninth successive clean sheet in knock-out matches.
Whether hypnotised by the constant keep ball or simply losing the will to live, opposition can find no way through. Even Cristiano Ronaldo got caught up by the sense of desperation that descended on Portugal as they sensed a breakthrough was not going to come.
Spain seemed to go through the motions. Their passing lacked zip and any positive intention; they seemed content to knock the ball about without any obvious purpose.
Yet still, thanks to an obliging post in the penalty shoot-out, they won again. And we all dread another chess stalemate in the final.
And not content with just clocking up pointless passing records, those sneaky Senors now play in a formation without a single forward!
No chance of one stray ball travelling more than ten yards forward when there is nobody up there to aim towards.
So perhaps Taylor was wrong; not everybody will go long from time to time.
Call me a philistine but I can’t be the only one who wants to see someone break the mould and welly it forward.
C’mon Pique, be a devil and stick it in the mixer …