Spain's Alberto Botia consoles his team mate Alvaro Dominguez (L) after losing their men's Group D football match against Honduras in the London 2012 Olympic Games at St James' Park in Newcastle July 29, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Nigel Roddis)
The Group Stage of the Olympic Men's Soccer Tournament featured a fair share of disappointments. Which were the greatest of all?
Euro Cup champions in 2008, World Cup Champions in 2010, and Euro Cup Champions in 2012. Just months after being hailed as the greatest team in the sport, the Spanish Armada turned up a pitiful performance at the Olympics. Excuses could be made for the fact that the team in the tournament only featured one major player from the 2012 Euro Champions and that he was likely exhausted from that travail. Excuses could be made for the fact that the Spanish had arguably the hardest group.
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But none of these matter when you are a pre-tournament favorite to win the whole thing. No excuses could be made when your team includes the likes of Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, Isco, Adrian, David De Gea, and a plethora of other future superstars.
However, the glaring number that stands out for this group is 0. That is the number of goals that Spain scored in the tournament and they were the only team to achieve that feat. Goal scoring was supposed to be easy for this team and it turned out that they were the only team out 16 that were unable to do it. The Spanish did not display the fluid possession game that they have made famous for the last four years. The squad looked impatient and messy with no sense of when to make aggressive passes and when to wait for plays to happen. They were often exposed on the counter attack and despite only giving up two goals (thanks to great goalkeeping from De Gea), the team looked horrific all around.
If this is the future of Spanish soccer, then Spain better be enjoying the closing curtain of its current Golden Age.
Third place finish in the World Cup. Winners of the Copa America. In many ways, Uruguay is more disappointing that Spain. Uruguay had such superstars as Nicolas Lodiero, Edinson Cavani, and Luis Suarez who have performed on the big stage more than once. Jordi Alba was the only player to have a major role in the Euro Cup 2012 from the Spanish Olympic squad. Uruguay's Suarez in particular proved to be a bust after scoring 0 goals in the tournament. This is the same player who scored three goals in the 2010 World Cup and followed that performance with four goals in the Copa America 2011. This is a player who has 28 goals in 54 matches for the national squad but put up a goose egg against squads that arguably weaker than those he normally plays against.
But what was more disastrous was how ineffective the South American champions looked in all three matches. The UAE looked like the more dominant squad despite losing 2-1. Against Senegal, the more skilled Uruguayans looked over matched physically. And against Great Britain, they lacked firepower or will to take the match. This team was supposed to compete for a medal. Now they walk away with nothing.