During the tail-end of the first decade of the new millennium, a new term stormed its way through the football experts’ lexicon – tiki taka.
Barcelona, under Pep Guardiola, had become the club the world had started to look up to. Their football was mesmeric. In two seasons, they had amassed a staggering seven trophies including two league titles and a Champions League leading up to the 2010 World Cup.
The rare blip in Copa del Rey aside, Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan showed the blueprint to the rest of the world in halting the rampant Barca winning machine: letting them have the ball but closing spaces down between the midfield and the defensive line. On the counter-attack, hit them with space.
Portugal stuck faithfully to formula that their countryman had devised in the round of 16. Spain had a stuttering start to the campaign with Switzerland pulling off a shock upset in first group stage match.
The Selecao had progressed to the round of 16 without conceding a goal but finished second behind Brazil. Spain smarted from their loss to win against Chile and Honduras to top their group.
Much of Portugal’s hopes were riding on talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. As a team, Spain were a well-drilled unit and had won the European Championships two years ago. Predictably, Spain were dictating play from the middle of the park through passmasters Xavi and Xabi Alonso. Despite getting a handful of chances, Portugal and goalkeeper Eduardo stood firm to thwart their neighbours’ best efforts.
Three minutes after the hour mark, Xabi Alonso passed it forward to Xavi after roaming into space in the opposition half. He passed the ball forward to Xavi, who made a sideways pass to Barca teammate Andres Iniesta.
Iniesta turned and found striker Fernando Llorrente in the box. The tall striker had men surrounding him and made a quick return pass to Iniesta. The Barca man then slipped a pass on his left to Xavi, who, with a backheel found David Villa.
The forward’s shot was initially saved by Eduardo but the latter had no chance to get his hands on the rebound. Spain held on to their lead. While Mourinho showed how to close down space, Spain showed how to open them with needle-like passes and slick one-touch play. They would go on to lift the World Cup for the first time in a couple of weeks.
Fifa World Cup
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