Spanish Soccer's Magnificent Style: Tiki-Taka
Known as notorious underachievers for many years, Spain have finally shaken off their reputation as “chokers”. Having won the European Championship in 2008, Spain followed up with World Cup Victory in 2010 and in the process established themselves as the best team on the planet.
Prior to this however, Spanish teams were full of promise and empty with results. Entering tournaments with high hopes, they were often sent home in the early stages of competition, much to the disappointment of the millions Spanish soccer fans across the world.
Dutch Influence on the Spanish Game
The Spanish style bears a resemblance to the Total Football style of the Dutch game from the 1970s, owing to Johan Cruyiff’s tenure as coach of Barcelona. The foundations for the current “tiki-taka” Spanish style was laid down here, and under the guidance of Coach Vicente del Bosque, perfected during the Euro 2008 championships.
Details of the "Tiki-Taka" Style
Characterized as resembling a hurricane, the players distribute the ball in short one and two-touch passes, with off the ball players constantly moving to create lanes for the passes to be made. The result is that the ball is moved in complex patterns that serve to disorient the opposition and attack at goal.
Notoriously complicated, the Spanish soccer style is not for amateurs or the faint of heart. There is a huge commitment by all those involved to understand the details of what it takes to play such a complex style.
The opposite of direct football which sees balls sent directly towards goal, patience is extremely important given the ball-possession style of Spanish soccer. Because players prefer to hang on to the ball, long balls are not often seen as these types of plays frequently result in a loss of possession.
The style itself is very positive and attack oriented, emphasizing skill and technique rather than brute force or overly defensive postures. As a result, games are often high scoring with many short, precise passes leading to picture perfect finishes. Furthermore, because the Spanish have so much ball possession, they don’t spend as much time defending.
As the old saying goes, sometimes the best defence is a good offense!
The Spanish style is one of the most difficult and complex styles soccer has ever seen. It requires teamwork and a common understanding of the game from all 11 players on the field.
Tiki-taka demands that players are technically proficient with excellent dribbling skills, perfect one and two-touch passing, and fantastic touch. But Spanish technical proficiency doesn’t stop at the physical level.
Because of the constant pass-and-move nature of the style, players are required to have excellent soccer IQ, as well as a thorough understanding of the game. Players must be able to recognize the play as it develops, be creative, and get themselves into space in the danger areas.
On the other hand, Spanish players are not particularly physical, relying instead on finesse and technical skills to wear out the opponent.
Spanish Youth Development
A large portion of Spain's recent crop of world class players can trace their training back to the youth academies of the two powerhouse teams of Spain's domestic La Liga. Real Madrid and especially Barcelona have world class training centers that have helped to produce some of the best players on the world, Spanish or not.
Here they are taught to play the pass-and-move style that has characterized the Spanish game, and this translates well when the players are called upon to represent the national team.
Familiarity with each other on the domestic level leads to success on the international level is at least one of the reasons why Spain has dominated international competition in recent years.
Take a look at other european soccer styles:
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