Spanish Mental Weakness Shows Again as Italian Referee Shows the Way

An evening on which football was the winner, as written-off, ageing France, with five members of their 1998 World Cup winning side, displayed much more savvy than their neighbours from across the Pyrenees.

How appropriate that the equalising goal should be scored by a man who plies his trade with Olympique Marseilles, Franck Ribery. Sallow cheeks, 4-inch facial scar, he looks as if he’s just gone 15 rounds with Popeye Doyle. Old masters Vieira and Zidane completed the scoring as Spain ran out of ideas.

A word for the officials from Italy: a true team performance, showing the importance of actually using all that gadgetry that’s taped to their heads. The decision early on to change the award of a corner to France was first communicated by the linesman to Senor Rossetti, and then by him to the players. Of course, the referee was helped by the fact that the match was played in a generally good spirit, with only one unsavoury incident, where Henry (frustrated by having a mediocre game, no doubt) went down under a challenge by “Captain Caveman” Carlos Puyol clutching his face, when no contact had been made with that particular part of his anatomy.

When will other countries, such as Spain, incidentally, learn that refereeing is an art as much as a job, a matter of building rapport with players and treating them with respect, though without favour or consideration for reputations? Italian referees, so often as young as the older players, have led the way in this regard for years.

Roll on Brazil on Saturday. Allez les Bleus!

It’s bad enough watching England play right now, but today I’m glad I’m not Spanish.

One European Championship (in 1964) is a poor reward for a nation which consistently produces such talented players yet fails to impress when the chips are down. Yes, they were robbed in 2002 by curious refereeing decisions but overall they are the epitome of a side in which the whole is less than the sum of the parts.