WORLD CUP JUNE 30, 2010
How will Spain manage to crack Paraguay? They have struggled against teams that have packed players into the final third and dared them to elegantly kick the ball about the midfield, with Spain looking so refined and yet so lacking in goals. Paraguay are, of course, the supreme example of this genre in the tournament. (I’m very moved by Sasha’s paeans to their lyrical dullness.) Spain should be able to pick that lock. But the lameness of Fernando Torres has been a major liability. Without him running rampant, teams have horded resources and used them to swarm Xavi. Much like Messi, he’s thus far failed to play up to his Barca levels of greatness in this tournament. Vicente del Bosque has always struck me as a reactionary, very much lacking in courage and new ideas. He has stuck with the lineup and tactics that he inherited, more or less. And why not? That lineup has a major trophy to its credit. But Torres is not the same player as the guy that shredded Germany in the final of the European championship. Without that player, the entire Spanish midfield grows perilously inert. Against Portugal, it was only when Spain yanked Torres and inserted Fernando Llorente that everything began to click. I can't wait to see how Spain fair in this next game. This quarterfinal matchup can be described in political terms. Paraguay was once a Spanish colony and their approach will resemble the sort of insurgency—where mere survival of the insurgency is the singular, desperate goal—that should have an old imperial power feeling quite vulnerable.