Spain's win against Portugal was a victory that should be welcomed by neutral fans everywhere. Not because of national sympathies, but because it proved that attacking football wins out in the end.
Earlier in the tournament, I made a case for the defence. To be more specific, I made the case that we shouldn't criticise too harshly the teams who were sitting deep, spending most of their time trying to absorb pressure rather than going out to win on their own terms. It was, said many commentators in that first week, killing games. I voiced the opinion that it was simply a case of smaller sides who didn't want to be beaten out of sight and go home as a national disgrace.
But that should not have been necessary for Portugal – so I was surprised to see how conservative they were. It may be that Paraguay try to play the same way as Portugal tomorrow night, but as someone with obvious Spanish sympathies, it was great to see that the players are in magnificent form right now, and you get the feeling that even against a really stubborn defence, a goal will come in the end.
Any team with Cristiano Ronaldo in it does not need to play defensively. Portugal sat back too much and used tactics that simply did not suit their finest player. Had they not played so far from Spain's goal and looked to stretch us a bit, then the space would have opened up for Ronaldo to play in.
It was certainly not a surprise that he was upset at the end of the game. Maybe the tone of his comments after the match were out of place, especially bearing in mind that he's the team captain, but he knew that his own chances of hurting Spain, and the team's chances of progressing to the quarter-finals had been seriously affected by the overly defensive tactics.
It's an interesting debate at the moment. People have pointed to the Internazionale example against Barcelona in the Champions League final, arguing that conceding possession is smart against sides that are skilled at keeping and moving the ball. The argument is that you can contain such flair sides but let them win the possession battle, then catch them on the break. But the advocates of this football philosophy forget that Inter attacked in the first leg, and then defended their lead. Whoever wins this World Cup will win it playing attacking football.
In the first game of the tournament we had countless chances against Switzerland and then they snatched the victory, but very few times is that ever going to happen. Still, I don't think Paraguay will be as easy as some people might be thinking but Spain will progress. Then I think we will meet Argentina in the semi-finals. Their quarter-final with Germany will be very close but they will have too much firepower.
Mesut Ozil has been outstanding since the first game. He scored the fabulous goal against Ghana and was a thorn in England's side. He finds space between the opposition's defence and midfield and uses the ball well when it comes to him. But Argentina also have someone who also plays that position rather well, someone by the name of Leo Messi – and that could be the difference. Before the tournament, Argentine supporters were worried that Messi was not producing his best Barcelona form for his country but the solution was a simple one and Maradona has applied it.
He now plays behind two strikers just as he does for Barcelona. The front two drag the opposition's defence out of position and Messi occupies the space they create to devastating effect. That will be Spain's next problem if the two quarter-finals go as I think they will.
I think Brazil will have just too much for Holland, although once again there is very little between the two. And the other game pits the muscle of Ghana up against the order of Uruguay. The South Americans' front two are playing superbly and I think that will see them through.
So Spain are just two more games from reaching our first ever World Cup final, perhaps against five-times winners Brazil. We can dream. No dreaming for the players, however, they will all be focused on one thing and one thing only – Paraguay tomorrow night.
Johnson's talent would have been a good fit at the Bernabeu
When I became Real Madrid coach in December 2008 we needed to sign a wide player in the winter transfer window, and it raised a few eyebrows when I said I wanted a winger from Middlesbrough who no one had ever heard of. In the end we did not get Adam Johnson but I was not surprised when he moved on to Manchester City and had a good first half-season. He was a player that caught my eye when I coached in England and he would not have been out of place at the Bernabeu, just as now he looks the part at Eastlands. It is too easy to say now, with the benefit of hindsight, that he should have gone to South Africa, but I'm sure he will play his part from now on and give people reason to believe in a bright future.
England: Stick with Capello. At 2-2 it would've been so different...
If anyone can, Capello can. If the English Football Association wants success, then getting rid of one of the most successful coaches in football does not seem to make too much sense. Fabio should be given the chance to see out his contract and take England into the European Championship.
I also think England fans are underplaying the part bad luck played in their exit. If they had gone in at half-time at 2-2 against Germany then it would have been a completely different second half. The boost that having come back from two goals down would have given the team would have been considerable. And the feeling of having thrown away a two-goal lead would have really deflated the Germans. With the score at 2-1 in the second half England had to go for it and that is when the gaps appeared.
Eastlands crowd can learn a lesson from Madrid
Manchester City run the risk of becoming the Premier League's very own Real Madrid as they continue to spend, spend, spend. There is no doubting the quality of Valencia's David Silva – they have acquired a player of real quality and I'm sure he has what it takes to succeed in England. But while there is no questioning Silva's ability, you have to wonder how much logic is behind the spending.
Real Madrid have been through periods of spending big, because of the tremendous pressure to win at all costs and to bring the club instant success. But, unless you have clear ideas about exactly how it is you want to, and a clear philosophy of how the team should play underpinning your signings, then it is very difficult to build anything long-lasting, no matter how many top players you buy.
But Manchester City do not have the incredible history that Real have. So it makes it all the more important for them to answer a crucial question: in a footballing sense, what kind of club do they want to be?Reuse content