'The Champions are back.'
The samba bodies were moving to the tune of drums — in a sea of yellow — as if the sunflowers at Corsica have suddenly come to life in South America. The left foot of the country's latest golden boy, in a split-second of immense happiness in a country embraced with every emotion other than that — and Brazil sang together, 'The Champions are back.' All this while, the game saw the minute technicalities of a gifted Spanish side being broken — it was the end of a 29-match unbeaten streak. And however meaningless the tournament might be — it seemed the word 'invincible' had suddenly been abolished in the world of football.
Go back a month in time, and in a comparatively less dramatic way, but still more emphatically, Bayern Munich slew Barcelona. The Catalan giants were humbled with such great style that football fans couldn't decide what was more exciting — the eventual fall of the giant or the rise of a new Goliath in Bayern Munich.
But both results had one thing in common. It brought about a belief that tiki-taka can be beaten at the highest stage. There is an end to its tyranny if you apply yourself with complete discipline for about 90-odd minutes. In three matches (two Bayern vs Barca legs and Brazil vs Spain), the invincibility of the style of play that has enchanted so many was suddenly brought to an abrupt halt.
Don't get it wrong. This is no way curtains for Spain, or tiki-taka. It's a defeat, like one of those bad scenes in an impressive movie with a star ensemble. But the way these losses were afflicted is what generates the interest of a football lover. These defeats were not close — they were damning, comprehensive and ruthless.
More than believing in the myth that tiki-taka is completely finished, the wins give hope that teams can beat a philosophy that is seeped into every top Spanish players blood.
And in the middle of it all were a few basic lessons of the game — press with aggression, move as a team, take shots whenever possible and hold your position. Bayern and Brazil did this with such precision, that one of Spain's stalwarts in football management — Vicente del Bosque — responded by saying this: "They chased us all over the pitch, they weren't afraid to be physical and get stuck in and it broke our rhythm. It's not an excuse, it's an explanation."
Del Bosque, and the rest of the Spanish team, who were more or less gracious in defeat, are correct. The reasons of defeat are there — in your face and they know it's time to go back to the drawing board and, sorry to mention this the umpteenth time in the past year, decide on Plan B.
And since Barcelona is so much the heartbeat of Spain's national team, it is more important for that institution to settle on another hallmark. It is not enough to give up on a style so beautifully boring — as tiki-taka has so many times been called — but more important to figure out how to carry it forward in the wake of so many doubts.
As Bayern finished off Barcelona, one must not forget that Borussia Dortmund got the better of the other big Spanish team in Real Madrid. It's hard to believe how a handful of results can change the perspective of a whole legion of sports journalists — but that is what Bayern, Dortmund and Brazil have achieved.
Teams will no longer quake in their boots when Xavi and Andres Iniesta rove towards them. They will no longer lose their battles as soon as they see the fixture-list and managers all over will take notes — rewinding, playing and fast-forwarding these matches. Players will probably be more confident of carrying the ball to the edge of the area and sending a shot past the once unbeatable Iker Casillas.
With a few results, Brazil and the German clubs have reminded football of it's central pillar of existence — belief.
First Published On : Jul 2, 2013 09:52 IST