Narrow victory | Spain have hardly set Euro 2012 alight, and many have poured scorn on their relatively painless route to the final. (Image | The Guardian)

It is quite shocking that current world and European champions, Spain, have been criticised for adopting a boring playing style. Despite reaching their third final in as many tournaments and continuing with their famous tiki-taka football, critics have unleashed a wave of attacks that has seen the tide of opinion go against Spain. A team that are one game away from a record third successive tournament win, who were once admired and celebrated among football critics and fans alike, face increased pressure to not only emerge victorious over Italy on Sunday evening, but to do so in a manner that will silence the critics.

There’s no doubt that Spain have played with less flair than in 2008 and 2010. Not only did their tika-taka ethos reign supreme, goals were scored aplenty and they maintained a 100% record throughout the entire 2008 tournament. Their set of world-class players were also more energetic and youthful and possibly at the peak of their game. With the majority of the Spanish team also members of the Barcelona starting XI, we must take into account the glorious four years the Catalan team has enjoyed, which includes three La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey and two Champions League victories, but with glory also comes fatigue.

If the Spanish are indeed exhausted, we can hardly blame them for netting early and playing keep ball for the remainder of the game – as we saw against France in the quarterfinal. This tactic, coupled with a considerably low number of goals (partly due to the lack of a notable striker), is arguably the reason behind the accusations.

Big loss | David Villa‘s absence from the tournament with injury means Spain have been forced to make a drastic change to their playing style. (Image | Sky Sports)

Yet why does a low number of goals suddenly make a team boring? Xavi and Iniesta rack up their pass completion statistics, but if nothing comes of an attack and Spain have to ‘start again’, the English viewers, impatient as ever, become dissatisfied. We must remember that Spain have a depleted squad: David Villa, their record goal scorer, is absent and Fernando Torres is undoubtedly a shadow of his former self. Therefore if they still wish to remain victorious, Spain have to compensate in some areas and unfortunately for viewers this has been in the number of goals scored. Yet why would Vicente Del Bosque change a winning formula? The record books are not going to mention how a team came under criticism for being boring, but it will mention how Spain were the first team to win three tournaments in succession.

Although Real Madrid discovered a way to overcome the total football last season, the Spanish national team deserve more applause than criticism. It’s extremely difficult for a club to maintain performance over four years and remain at the top of their game, never mind a national team. The greatest clubs in the world have struggled to retain the domestic league trophy for four consecutive years and Spain haven’t had to change their playing style to address the challenge of another nation. You call it boring? They call it winning.

Twitter | @billysexton

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