Spain are universally considered to be favourites to lift the FIFA World Cup in South Africa on July 11.
Their triumph at Euro 2008 has loosened the medallion of ‘nearly-men’ from around their neck, a hindrance which proved to be too heavy for Raul’s generation to overcome, and for the first time ever, La Furia Roja enter a major tournament with little to prove.
Similar to the respect that domestic champions Barcelona collect from across the globe, Spain are widely regarded as wonderful to watch, and have a squad bristling with talent. To many, they would be worthy winners of a tournament where the major European superpowers such as Italy, France and the injury-hit Germans are not seen on paper as viable threats.
However, in a similar vein to France after their Euro 2000 victory, the weight of expectation that success can bring can often be as overbearing as the hunt for success itself. At World Cup 2002, Les Bleus were deemed to be the team to beat, but their bid to become the first side since Brazil in 1962 to retain the title was a disastrous one. An unfamiliar climate in an unfamiliar continent combined with a stunning opening game defeat to Senegal, the absence of Zinedine Zidane in the first two group matches, and a dramatic loss of form to key individuals left France winless, goal-less, and going home.
Vicente del Bosque’s men should take heed. On paper, their draw seems relatively straightforward, but being installed as pre-tournament favourites immediately places them on a pedestal, to be shot down by Honduras, Chile and Switzerland, who will be in the hunt for a famous result. Furthermore, La Roja’s World Cup history is littered with giant-killing defeats – Northern Ireland in 1982, Nigeria in 1998 and South Korea in 2002, to name but a few.
Being the team expected to do well, and expected to win, can psychologically disrupt a player’s focus and drive; if anyone in the squad feel that they will cruise through Group H simply by turning up to the party, they could be monumentally brought back down to Earth.
It could be argued that this team is too experienced to allow for such an elementary error of judgement, but it comes with the territory of being the team to beat, and the failure to perform in one match (think of the defeat to the USA in last summer’s Confederations Cup semi-final) can bring a methodically-planned campaign to a grinding halt.
Indeed complacency is a concern of every manager when facing inferior opposition, and one that is difficult to eradicate. Del Bosque’s array of talent must be able to disregard the praise and channel their preparations solely on the next opponent. ‘Taking each game as it comes’ may be a tired cliché, but in knockout competitions such as the World Cup, taking place in a month of intense action, it is absolutely crucial.
South Africa will become the epicentre of the planet from June 11 until July 11, with players facing greater media demand, greater scrutiny, not to mention seven matches in the space of 30 days, should they reach the final. The next match is the biggest match, as Del Bosque will repeat ad nauseum to his final 23, and there will be no talk of finals, of being victorious, only on the next task in hand.
World Cup fever is beginning to kick in, and one way of recognising this is the manner in which each nation’s domestic press exacerbate any minor team issues, and pinpoint any errors in a ruthless manner. If ever proof of this fact were needed, it can be found in the recent criticism of goalkeeper Iker Casillas following his performance versus Saudi Arabia. If even ‘San Iker’ isn’t safe from the snipers, then it’s time to recognise the euphoria and chaos that can ensue during a World Cup campaign.
Spain and in particular Victor Valdes, handled the situation superbly, giving the Real Madrid legend his full public backing. There had been concerns that Valdes’ inclusion despite never being capped at international level, could be a potential disruption to an otherwise harmonious squad. Valdes, however, was appreciative of the situation, and behaved diplomatically – an attitude that Spain’s squad as a whole has maintained, and will stand them in good stead.
The point being that it isn’t only the teams on the pitch that want to see a favourite falter, if there is potential for upsetting a squad, the manic, press-orientated World Cup bandwagons can see to that. Moreover, Spain’s recent imperious form has led to a general anticipation that this is a team in the midst of a halcyon era, and that world domination will naturally follow.
There is still the ongoing saga regarding the future of Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres at club level, and transfer rumours affect players more than they would like to admit. The English Premier League duo have been subject to incessant questioning regarding their destination for the 2010/11 season, Del Bosque needs to know that his players are focused on the task in hand.
The role of favourite brings additional problems to a coach and squad ahead of a major tournament that can easily be succumbed to. Vicente Del Bosque’s side will need to use all of their experience to avoid falling foul of the problems that have haunted them, and indeed others in their position, in the past.
Delta Insists To Host Best Ever NSF Opening Ceremony Nov 30
After months of preparations, the 21st National Sports Festival tagged Delta 2022 will finally begin on November 30, with the State government insisting on delivering the best ever Games in history of Nigeria sports.
With two brand new indoor sports hall, a new swimming pool, new tartan track, new shooting range all within the Stephen Keshi Stadium as well as new hockey pitch at Okpanam and new hostel facilities at the NYSC camp at Issele-Uku, the Secretary of Local Organising committee (LOC), Chris Anazia declared yesterday that Delta would leave a legacy that will be difficult to surpass in the nearest future.
“Whenever Delta agree to do anything, we always go for the best,” Anazia said. “We are not just going to host a sports festival, but the best ever in the history of the Games. I am sure by the time the festival ends on December 10, all Nigerian athletes and officials will praise the government and people of Delta State for a job well done.”
Apart the hostel facilities being put in place at NYSC camp at Issele-Uku, headquarters of Aniocha north local council, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is also building hostels in some schools in Asaba to serve as accommodation for the athletes.
According to Anazia, arrival date for State contingent in November 28 and 29, while the opening ceremony will hold on November 30.
Meanwhile, the Adviser to the LOC, Chief Solomon Ogba, has revealed that the Festival Torch of Unity, which has been moving round the country will arrive Delta State on November 28, and will travel round all local government headquarters for chairmen and council officials to have a feel.
Ogba, a former Sports Commissioner, ex-President of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) and currently the First Vice President of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), stated that the Festival Torch of Unity would arrive Asaba on November 30, the day of the opening ceremony.
U-23 AFCON: Bosso Invites 40 Players To Camp
The Head Coach of the U-20 Boys’ National Team, Isah Bosso, has called up 40 players to begin camping in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from today in preparation for the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations finals in Egypt
This is according to a statement by the Nigeria Football Federation Communications Department, obtained on Saturday.
The list is made up of five goalkeepers, nine defenders, 13 midfielders and 13 forwards. The players will stay at the Serob Legacy Hotel in the Wuye area of the nation’s capital.
The seven-time African champions triumphed at the WAFU B U-20 Championship held in Niger Republic in May and thus qualified to represent the zone at the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations to be staged in Egypt from February 18 to March 12.
All four semi-finalists at the U-20 AFCON will fly Africa’s flag at next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup finals holding in Indonesia.
WAC: Amusan, Brume Others Set To Compete
Five Nigerian female athletes have qualified to compete at the 19th edition of the World Athletics Championships next year August in Budapest, Hungary, Tidesports source reports.
The five athletes are sprinters Favour Ofili, Grace Nwokocha and Rosemary Chukwuma; sprint hurdler Tobi Amusan and long jumper Ese Brume.
The five individual athletes secured their qualification at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last August while Amusan automatically qualifies as the reigning World 100m hurdles champion albeit she could have made the cut either through the entry standard or the wild card her Diamond League victory conferred on her.
The Commonwealth Games period fell within the qualification window for the Championships.
Two of the five relay teams the women’s 4x100m and the Mixed 4x400m also secured qualification to the championships, the flagship event of World Athletics.
The two relay teams are able to secure qualification following the cancellation of the 2023 World Relays in China due to the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three other Nigerian athletes also qualified provisionally for the World Athletics Championships as area champions.
They are Oyesade Olatoye (Hammer Throw), Chioma Onyekwere (Discus) and Chukwuebuka Enekwechi (Shot Put).
The trio won their respective events at the 22nd African Athletics Championships in Mauritius last June.
Featured4 days ago
Rivers Judiciary Nets N1.2bn In 12 Months, Disposes 19,864 Cases
Sports4 days ago
Matchmakers Vows To Hold Credible Pitch Awards …As Voting Begins, Dec 1
Politics15 hours ago
2023: Court Fines Abiola For Late Filing Of Documents
Oil & Energy14 hours ago
DAPPMAN Raises Concern Over FG’s New Tax Regime
Nation4 days ago
Plateau Lauds NEPC Over Boost On Non-Oil Export
Politics4 days ago
INEC Vows To Clean Up Voters’ Register
Niger Delta15 hours ago
Indigenous Firm Donates N170m Relief Materials To Bayelsa Flood Victims
News14 hours ago
GCSS Emerged Winners Of Old Students Football Competition