From: Mike on

Successes Nurtured in Barcelona

DURBAN, South Africa — The names and the numbers on the backs of the
red-and-blue jerseys could fool anyone not paying close attention. Did
Spain score in the 73rd minute against Germany in the semifinal of the
World Cup on Wednesday night, or was it Barcelona, maybe, against
Bayern Munich?

Andrés Iniesta earned the corner kick that was whipped in from the
left side by Xavi and met by a rampaging Carles Puyol, who headed home
a dramatic goal, for Spain.

Yes, it was Spain.

You can tell because for the national team, Xavi wears No. 8 and
Iniesta No. 6, and it is the other way around at their club team, F.C.
Barcelona. But it almost does not matter because both La Furia Roja
(the Red Fury, as Spain is known) and La Blaugrana (the blue and red,
as Barcelona is known) use the same core of talented players to win

Spain will rely on six Barcelona players, and a seventh set to join
the club next month, when it tries to win the country’s first World
Cup title Sunday against the Netherlands in Johannesburg.

Puyol, who scored in the 1-0 victory over Germany, is the Barcelona
captain. Xavi and Iniesta are the creative midfielders who orchestrate
the attack. They are joined by midfielder Sergio Busquets, defender
Gerard Piqué and forward Pedro.

David Villa, the Spanish striker who is tied for top scorer in the
tournament, will join Barcelona in a $50 million transfer agreed to
before the World Cup.

Since national teams draw the country’s best players, their rosters
often consist of players from the national league’s best team. All but
three of the Spanish players compete in the country’s domestic league.
(Germany’s team includes seven players under contract to Bayern
Munich.) But Barcelona’s imprint on the Spanish team is uncommonly

In 2006, Italy, the World Cup champion, had six A.C. Milan players and
five from Juventus. But the team played a different style of play than
either club, and the players were much older than those in the current
Spanish team.

Barcelona’s success has been built on its extensive youth development
program, which has fed the senior club and the national team, where
its style of play and the training techniques have been duplicated.
Both Barcelona and Spain dominate opponents by controlling the ball
and stringing together intricate passing sequences. That requires
precision, patience and a preternatural understanding between the

It is the same style that helped Barcelona win four Spanish
championships in the past six seasons, and two UEFA Champions League
titles, in 2006 and 2009. It is the same approach that helped Spain
win the 2008 European championship, and the one that has Spain in its
first World Cup final.

Xavi is the longest-serving player, with more than 90 appearances for
Spain and 352 games for Barcelona since 1998. Puyol has played more
than 300 games for Barcelona since 1999 and 90 for Spain.

Iniesta became a regular first-team player at Barcelona in 2002 and
has played more than 200 games for the club. Piqué, 23, Busquets, 21,
and Pedro, 22, already play important roles for both teams. All could
be World Cup champions next month when they return to Barcelona for
preseason training.

“They are masters of the game,” Germany Coach Joachim Löw said
Wednesday. “You can see it in every pass. Take how Barcelona plays.
They can hardly be beaten. They are extremely confident and very calm
in the way they circulate the ball.”

That confidence and calm is born of familiarity. Each player seems to
know where the ball is going to go when his teammate plays it because
he has seen it go there thousands of times before in practice, or
during 40 or 50 club games and a dozen national team games each year.

“This has been our responsibility since Day 1 in South Africa,” Xavi
said. “As a team, more or less, we made it.”

“We felt good, calm,” he added. “We played like we have the past three
years, very well.”

For Barcelona and for Spain.
From: Mark V. on
On Jul 8, 7:25 pm, Mike <yard22...(a)> wrote:

> That confidence and calm is born of familiarity. Each player seems to
> know where the ball is going to go when his teammate plays it because
> he has seen it go there thousands of times before in practice, or

Ah, the Gladwellian "Do it for 10,000 hours and you'll do it very,
very well!"