Over the last couple of decades or so, Indian football fans haven’t had much cause to celebrate. The national team’s record in World Cup Qualifying competitions in general has been dismal. Unsurprisingly, the national team’s ranking has also been an eyesore for years. However, in recent times, especially over the last 3 years or so, the mood in the Indian Camp has seen a gradual upswing. The national team’s ranking has also seen a rapid rise. There was a stage not so long ago when the national team’s ranking languished in the 160s and 170s. More recently, this number had risen to as high as 97 (A number not seen since the 90s) and the team is currently ranked 104 (At the time of writing). So, how does all this tie in to Indian football’s watershed moment against Qatar ?
It is the 92nd minute in Rostov as Keisuke Honda lines up to take a free kick. The ball is a comfortable 40 yards or so from goal and very few would dare to shoot at goal from that distance. Unknown to the Belgium & Chelsea shot-stopper in goal, Thibaut Courtois, those few individuals include…Keisuke Honda. With a short run-up, Honda strikes at goal. His knuckle-ball freekick dips wickedly and Courtois scrambles away the ball in the last moment to prevent an embarrassment for Belgium.
If there is one thing that has come to characterize the Spanish National Team’s play over the last decade or so, it is ‘Style’. Winning may be important but doing it with panache and a style that’s easy on the eyes can elevate sport to a different level altogether. At Real Madrid, winning in an emphatic manner or with style so to speak is of prime importance. Over the years, legendary players and coaches who couldn’t fit into this spectacular brand of football at Real have been shown the door (Fabio Capello and Claude Makelele are prime examples). Yet for all the emphasis placed on style, there is a certain bandy-legged bearded beauty (Yes, Isco) who couldn’t be a more perfect fit for this lofty ideal; and at the same time looks out of place at Real Madrid.
I have always been a huge fan of the La Liga and Spanish football in general. However, it was only after the 2002 World Cup in Japan & South Korea that I started watching football. Like anyone who is new to a sport, I had to support somebody and for whatever reason I decided that Spain was my team.
Recently, the Santiago Bernabeau bore witness to an absolute footballing exhibition as Spain tore apart Italy 3-0. Interestingly, Spain played without any strikers in this game with coach Julen Lopetegui opting for a 4-6-0 formation. It’s not as if Spain hasn’t done this before. Under Vicente Del Bosque, this idea was used to great effect; especially during Euro 2012 where Fabregas played as a false striker. That Spain though was different.
What can I say about Zizou that hasn’t already been said? Was there ever doubting this man when he took over the managerial reins at Los Blancos ? The enigma that is Zidane always seems to answer all our questions in a manner that belies his quiet personality.
Isco Alarcon Suarez, the new poster-boy of Spanish Football, the new Golden Boy of Spain, the bandy-legged bearded beauty (Thank you, Ray Hudson) …. Call him what you want but there is no denying the Malagueño’s silky skills and footwork. The Real Madrid maestro is another in a long line of talented midfielders, especially No.10s to don the colours of La Furia Roja……