It was the performance that other teams now aspire to mimic. The one which raised the bar for others to try and match. The Euro 2012 final between Spain and Italy may not have been the edgiest final in history, but in terms of a footballing display, and the accolades won (including a third consecutive international trophy, retention of the trophy, best player of the tournament award from midfielder Iniesta and tournament Golden Boot for Fernando Torres) it is difficult to find a better example of getting strategy right.
One of the biggest talking points has been the emergence of a new formation in international football. Only Spain would dare to start a major final with a goalkeeper, four defenders, six midfielders and no striker. The fact that it proved to be the undoing of rivals such as Portugal and Italy speaks volumes, but it showed an acute understanding of what they were trying to achieve during the tournament.
Commentators have called the tactics “unconventional”, “boring”, “maverick” and even “negative”, but who can argue with a four nil victory in the final of a major international tournament. Traditional thinking suggests that going “strikerless” is akin to walking into battle without a sword. But it worked for Spain; overturning 30 years of 4-4-2 thinking currently employed by the majority of successful footballing nations. However, in each game, slowly, inevitably, safely and surely, they found wins and avoided conceding goals in a masterful way.
If you apply the Spanish midfield maestros to savings and investing, at a simple level many think that you need the spectacular; a Rooney-type risk and return relationship. However, it can be argued that, just like the Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque, there is value in aspiring to be different. Spain won the tournament through steady, methodical, possession play, where the aim of the game is simply to not lose the ball – which is the absolute essence of football.
The staunch objectors and even some pundits have come forward already; football without strikers is tactical heresy. Ask any neutral when you watch the fluidity of play, even without goals, observing Spain is truly an amazing experience. From a financial perspective the comparison is obvious at the current time with superstar bankers stealing the headlines for the wrong reasons. The culture of superstar fund managers and trading gurus has been found wanting in volatile times.
In boom times the play was all too familiar, the strikers of the financial world dominated a 0-0-10 formation with everyone looking for a fast buck and when they got it they blew it because they didn’t value it, or worse they invested their fast bucks in even faster bucks, only to lose it all. The contrast between the success of the Spanish team and Spain’s domestic economic predicament could hardly be more startling. The goal was rooted in the ‘group think’ of a property boom, where cheap credit flooded the market and sent house prices to levels which were completely unsustainable, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_property_bubble for some stats. The insanity was topped off by the ever present sign of a market about to implode.
Ramos, Casillas, Villa and co show us clearly that the studied, methodical and “boring” may not only be successful but eminently more rewarding than a quick buck. When you work hard and build your rewards in time you may appreciate them much, much more.
Likewise, when it comes to your own finances, a Spanish approach could prove to be the method to follow. Perhaps the way to sustained wealth in the future is not a quick buck looking for the next boom and getting out just before the bust, but slowly and surely building your personal wealth patiently over time. It’s not flashy but you will value your effort and take pride in your habit, you may grow in confidence and do even more.
Spain has a lot to teach the world about football and indeed economics, just take your lessons from Vicente del Bosque.