In Rustenburg England's defenders must have watched behind a sofa. In fact, should they get as far as meeting Spain, they might as well bring it along with them, and put it wherever Rio Ferdinand might have stood. For everyone knows that an irresistible force can only be met with an immovable object. And, if that doesn't work, then they can always just sit down and enjoy the show.
Such, at any rate, was the way Poland's helpless rearguard must have viewed the second of six goals conceded in Spain's final friendly, on Tuesday night. OK, it would be exaggerating things to suggest that it made Argentina's 24-pass hypnosis of Serbia & Montenegro, in 2006, look like a goalmouth scramble. But it left no doubt that Spain will try to win the World Cup as the absolute antithesis of the current holders, Italy.
The goal was eventually scored by David Silva, which is rather less of a footnote than the fact that Esteban Cambiasso completed that Argentine symphony in Germany. In the end, admittedly, Silva could have put it away with a snooker cue. But he had been central to the intricate coil of passing that gradually tightened the noose round the Polish defence.
Picked out by Xavi Hernandez wide on the left, Andres Iniesta cut inside and slipped a return pass; Xavi and Silva then trussed three defenders together with a short one-two; by now, Iniesta had drifted into the D, where he took another short pass from Xavi and, in turn, had a staccato exchange with Silva. Xavi was meanwhile contributing an incongruous moment of slapstick, with a sudden bellyflop on the edge of the box, yards from the Polish defenders. These were instead gathering, like moths to a flame, around Iniesta. He had no fewer than six in attendance as he started one way, thought better of it, rolled the ball back under his heel and looked up to see Xavi, back on his feet and unmarked inside the box. Iniesta promptly scooped the ball with such precision that Xavi, rather than volley it past the keeper, could roll it along the six-yard box for Silva to convert.
That final ball distilled the selfless ethic of the Spanish game; but its prelude exhibited a greater altruism still, one that could persuade footballers around the planet that the most beautiful way can also be the most effective. Iniesta's final chip to Xavi might have been tied by silk to some quadrennial conjunction of the planets. How lucky, that it should coincide with a World Cup.
See the goal: tinyurl.com/35tv4n5
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