Spain have grown accustomed to winning major tournaments with many other nations looking on with eny at the superb talent they have to choose from. The 2010 World Cup held in South Africa, the European Under-21 Championships in 2011, and the recently completed Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine have all been won by a dominant Spain team. It would have taken a brave man to bet against them in the London 2012 Olympics, with the likes of Juan Mata, David De Gea and Jordi Alba at their disposal.
Spain’s untouchable run however has come to an abrupt end, with humbling 1-0 defeats to both Japan and Honduras in the past week. In both games, the Spanish team looked like a team of individuals with no great drive or willingness to succeed. Their performance against Honduras was much improved compared to that against Japan, as they hit the woodwork three times during the match, but never did they really dominate proceedings as had been expected. Spanish coach Luis Milla tried to put on a brave face after his side’s devastating defeat:
Milla said: “Yes
It will be the first time that some of these Spanish players have tasted defeat on an international stage and it will be interesting to see how they react when most of them progress into the full national team.
Too often in football the focus is solely on larger nations failing instead of the real story of success. The Japanese have now qualified from the group with two successive victories and two successive clean sheets. Their performance against Spain was tremendous and although their game against Morocco was not as easy on the eye, their togetherness and work rate shone through, as eventually they snatched a late winner through forward Kensuke Nagai. They will now go through to the quarterfinals with a game to spare, having not made the knockout stage in 12 years.
When they last did they faced the United States, when star player Hidetoshi Nakata failed to convert the final penalty in a shootout, sending Japan crashing out. Their last medal in football came in the Mexico games of 1968, where they earned a very respectable Bronze. If they could match that outcome, it would be a great success for the team and for the nation itself.
Congratulations must also go to Honduras, a team that many had expected not to even gain a point at the Olympics this time round. Thanks to the 2-2 draw they achieved on the opening day and their 1-0 win over Spain, they are now sitting pretty with four points and second place in the group. A draw will guarantee qualification from the group, something that they have never achieved at any Olympics. It would be a terrific feat for Luis Fernando Suarez and his team, but they must play to their absolute best if they are to record any kind of positive result against a determined Japan side.
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