Tag: Andrés Iniesta

Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble

It is no secret that Graham Hunter, the Sky Sports and ESPN soccernet writer tasked with covering Spanish soccer, has a strong admiration for the footballing ways of the Spanish National team and FC Barcelona. Last year, Hunter published Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, a detailed look into Barcelona’s unprecedented title-accumulating run from 2009 through 2011.

Hunter’s latest book, Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble, comes out today and profiles Spain’s historic run, in which they captured three consecutive major tournament trophies – Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012. ESPN and The Guardian each posted excerpts from the book to promote the story to a wider audience.

ESPN’s article focuses on Andres Iniesta and how he nearly missed the World Cup in 2010 due to an injury suffered late in the 2009-2010 season that weakened his thigh and nearly shattered his psyche. Vicente del Bosque, the Spanish manager, took a chance by including Iniesta on his squad but was handsomely rewarded as Iniesta earned all-tournament team honors and scored the World Cup-winning goal in the Final versus Netherlands.

This article spoke to me on a number of levels. Firstly, I’m an unabashed fan of Iniesta whom I believe is one of the five best players of the 21st century. Just for reference, he was named player of the tournament at Euro 2012, UEFA best player in Europe 2012, UEFA Champions League player of the year 2011-2012, finished in the top 4 of the Ballon d’Or voting 2009-2012, made four consecutive UEFA teams of the year, won Confederations Cup Silver Ball 2013, and was named to the Euro 2008 team of the tournament. In addition to winning three major trophies with Spain and numerous titles with Barcelona, Iniesta has always risen to the occasion on the grandest of stages.

Secondly, this article speaks to the importance of the mental component of sports and the fragility of an athlete’s psyche, two topics which I feel are underappreciated and misunderstood. In addition to physical damage, an injury inflicts mental trauma even to an athlete Iniesta’s caliber, whose achievements and ability are described above. Prior to World Cup 2010, Iniesta, already an accomplished superstar, found himself on the brink of breakdown with his confidence shaken. Ultimately, Iniesta found the self-belief to persevere and succeed at the World Cup and beyond, but many players (i.e. Torres) do not recover from such serious setbacks.

The Guardian’s article discusses the youth development infrastructure, philosophy, and methodologies that laid the groundwork for Spain’s three major international tournament victories (and potentially many more). Spain has established a systematic approach to finding and cultivating talent who fit their unique style of play. Spain’s Under-15 national team players are trained in exactly the same way as their professional counterparts. It is no surprise that the vast majority of Spain’s national team players spent significant time with their youth national teams, where the national team’s strategies and style of play were firmly ingrained in their minds.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Hunter’s Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World and am looking forward to reading his latest, which certainly looks worthy of reading based upon the excerpts and the writer’s sterling reputation.


Messi’s Top 50 Career Goals

As soccer addicts enter the withdrawal stages of their soccer addiction with the completion of the European club season, I thought there would be no better way to incite a collective relapse within the soccer community than by posting this incredibly well-done video of Messi’s best 50 career goals, both for club and country. For a guy with nearly 250 career goals, it was no small feat to make this list.

While watching this video, one can’t help but marvel at the technique required for each of these goals and the diversity in types of goals he scored. It seems as though Messi scored in every conceivable way. The video highlights chips, free kicks, slaloming runs through a defense, volleys, headers, heat-seeking lasers, calm finishes to the corner, and even a chested goal. At the risk of stating the obvious, this Argentine is not just a goal-scorer but a finisher in every sense of the word. Whether Messi was decimating domestic foes in La Liga or European rivals in the Champions League or international adversaries during national team duty, no opponent was spared from his exploits.

Since many of these goals are already world-famous, I thought I’d add a few comments on some of the less renowned goals and moments from the video. For instance, at 6:18 (goal # 32), note the pass by Andres Iniesta. Next, at 7:11 (goal # 30), witness Messi strike a perfect volley off the post and into the net versus Bayern Munich just a few months after his 20th birthday. At 8:29 (goal # 25), please take the time to appreciate the poise to serenely dribble through the heart of the penalty box before calmly slotting the ball past the goalkeeper. Goal # 14 (at 12:00), may very well be the most technical goal of the bunch. It is a wonder to watch Messi negotiate such a tight space and still be able to finish in the top corner. At 12:36 (goal # 12), simply enjoy the beauty and ease at which Messi creates the goal against my beloved Sevilla FC. Last, but certainly not least, at 15:48 (goal # 4), take note of the deft touch that leaves the goalkeeper helpless. How many other players even attempt that goal?

Without further ado, enjoy the genius of Messi.