We need to talk about Spain. Never have a team made winning look like such a joyless experience, a secondary pursuit to trying to beat that amazing 25 pass that goal that Argentina put past Serbia at the World Cup a decade ago.
If Euro 2016 hasn’t been overflowing with quality performances so far, it has really been defined by the sheer delight of some nations at just making it this far. The fans and players of Albania, Romania and Wales, in particular, all looked as though they were having a fantastic time at a major tournament.
Spain, meanwhile, looked thoroughly bored to have to be picking their way through a mass of Czech defenders on a Monday afternoon. They eventually did, Gerard Pique heading in late on, but it was another Spanish performance that did little to win them any neutral admirers.
Following the shambles of the last World Cup and a pre-tournament defeat to Georgia, it is starting to feel as though the game has left this great team behind. It may still have numerous World Cup winners within it, but this Spain squad has been left behind by the likes of Germany and France.
It may be because they spend the rest of their time embroiled in a bitter La Liga feud, but the likes of Sergio Ramos and Pique never look truly happy to be on duty with Spain any more.
It can be difficult to maintain the same hunger and desire to win as a national team after you have lifted every major trophy available and Spain haven’t introduced enough fresh blood into a side who still have the same manager and that is dominated by the same personalities.
As an ideology, tiki-taka allowed Spain to become the dominant footballing nation on the planet. The game always finds a way to combat the new style, however, and the obvious way to play against Spain is to simply stifle them and offer no space, something that often makes their games a tedious watch.
Huge surprise that Spain are giving us the most boring match of the tournament so far. Not.
— TT (@flyingwingback) June 13, 2016
The opposition can be blamed to some extent, the lack of ambition from the Czechs having been particularly disappointing, but Spain’s lack of a second plan points to a nation still clinging to its past glories, hoping that a dying art can once again win them a tournament.
Signing Luis Suarez has allowed Barcelona, the original club exponents of tiki-taka, to transform themselves into a side capable of hurting the opposition through power and pace rather than just total control. They moved with the times, but it might just be too late for Spain.