The life-cycle of rising football teams never changes. What’s fresh and popular during the exciting beginning becomes dull and boring, even hated later on. Spain have followed that exact course since winning the Euro in 2008, and haven’t really been helping themselves by slightly playing the part of the villain and diving at every possible opportunity in their win over Uruguay.
When Spain began their wonderful run of titles and domination of global football, they were playing in a different system than they are at the moment. It was something of a 4-4-2, with four central midfielders, two of them slightly more defensive (Xabi Alonso, Xavi), two more attacking, with a bit of a wider role (David Silva, Andres Iniesta), while David Villa and Fernando Torres were playing upfront.
This was a few months before Pep Guardiola began his own European domination with Barcelona, and the complete commitment to the possession style we know now. Spain have always been about midfield quality and midfield possession, but it looked very different five years ago. A lot quicker, and due to its difference from everyone else, a lot more exciting.
A few years have passed. Barcelona have had their peak using this style, and have already began to decline, which might mean that it’s time for a change in their approach. Spain haven’t stopped winning, but they’ve definitely stopped having the neutrals on their side. Their matches in the Euro, especially the semifinal draw (winning on penalties) and quarterfinals win over France were dull affairs, boring to watch.
Spain are about winning, not entertaining, and with the opposition not willing to open up in fear of being scorched, like Italy were in the final (4-0), passing the ball around without any intention of pushing forward until an opening is created is their MO, which is working, so why change it?
International football always drags behind club football. Tactical innovations begin in the leagues, and take some time before reaching the national teams. The way to stop Barcelona is use high-pressure against them, but hardly anyone tries this method against Spain, at least not for long stretches of matches.
In today’s game, it’s better, in the public’s eye, to be a player who keeps trying to knock others on the ground and commit intentional hard fouls than be recognized as a diver. Spain are usually undersized in most positions, so they make the most of every physical encounter. These things are viewed differently in different parts of the world, but it doesn’t look too respectful, regardless of the language you’re speaking.
Suddenly, in hindsight, people don’t think the Dutch players in the 2010 final were so wrong to be as brutal as they were. Spain are no longer everyone’s favorite team. Because we’ve gotten used to seeing them winning, and it doesn’t create an emotional response as it once did, while their style has become repetitive, slow, and boring too many times. Diving? No one has won over neutral fans by faking injuries or trying to cheat.