I know we shouldn't be surprised by the pundits on the BBC talking absolute nonsense, but Spain's penalty shootout triumph over Italy last night was twice referred to as "a victory for football".
I can see what they are getting at - Spain played almost all of the expansive attacking football when compared to Italy's defensive minded approach - but a vacuous soundbite of that stature surely can't go unpunished?
The whole point of football (and, some would argue especially international football) is that it pitches different styles and mentalities against one another. Italy are the second most successful international team in world football history and their success has, as a generalisation, been built on defensive knowhow coupled with a plethora of attacking talents. The Italian game is defined as careful, possession-led, organised and, I suppose, somehow stylish.
If, as Gary Lineker would have you believe, that Spain's win was "a victory for football" then we ought to be seeing Brazil win every World Cup from now on. Real Madrid would presumably be the European Champions every year and Arsenal would win the Premier League. The fact remains is that it doesn't work like that. History is litterered with triumps borne from tactical knowhow and organisation (think Greece in 2004), home advantage (think England in 1966) and, on occasions, luck (think Germany in 1996).
Teams who adopt defensive strategies that play to their strengths are as valid and as important to the game as those carefree attacking sides. Whether they are as easy on the eye is a different matter entirely, but they should not be criticised for adopting an approach within the rules of the game that suits their priorities. If I admire the organisation and defensive style of the Italians and the quality of their world-class goalkeeper (which I do), their frustration of a talented Spanish side for 120 minutes is as much of a "victory for football" as any.