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Iniesta and the ‘Knights of Anguish’


The tireless follower of football and frenzied fan of Spain, Bernardo Salazar, said to me the other day that there’s no such thing as ‘friendlies’. For him, every game that Spain plays is prestigious, no matter the time or place or under what circumstance the match takes place. Thanks to this, I know him to suffer just as much in these so called ‘preparation’ matches as in the really important occasions like against Czech Republic. That Pique goal made him very happy, as it did to all of us. The goal of a defender turned striker.

Wonderulful interplay...but often guilty of overplay

It was Salazar who tweeted me not long after the game had finished: “These are the Knights of Anguish.” The Knights of Anguish, as I remember them, were the famous forward line of a River Plate side in the early 50s. Muñoz, Moreno, Pedernera, Labruna and Loustau. They were machines. So excellent, in fact, that the memory of which is perhaps evoked with some exaggeration. They had wonderful interplay, but were sometimes guilty of overplay, and chances would often go amiss. Despite this, they were renowned for resolving games almost always in the last minute, often with the last kick of the ball. Hence the name, The Knights of Anguish.

We moan...but it gets results

Andres Iniesta of Spain runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016
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Andres Iniesta of Spain runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016David RamosGetty Images

There’s a bit of this too in this Spain side. They play well, keeping hold of the ball, fondling it almost. I don’t moan, but like everybody, I often fail to see where the end product is coming from. During the TV coverage of the Czech match, Luis Suárez (the only ever Spanish player to win the Balon d’Or) reminded that there’s nothing wrong with taking a pop from outside the box. This team though, who pass the ball with such distinction, never think to go for goal until they’re inside the area. We moan, but this is how the winner finally came the other day, from a precise Iniesta cross planted on top Pique's head, just six yards out. This Spain team is directed through Iniesta’s internal compass, through a style of play which makes us impatient, but it’s still beautiful. And it almost always gets a result.