The World Cup almost always offers us dramatic story lines–Costa Rica’s amazing success, France’s resurgence–but perhaps none is bigger than Spain’s spectacular flameout. The team that has dominated world soccer for years, winning the last World Cup and the last two European championships, received a revenge thumping from the Dutch and then was ignominiously ousted from the tournament by the Chileans.
When I think of Spain, a passage from Julius Caesar comes to mind: they did “bestride the narrow world like a Colossus.” For a while, all other teams did walk under their huge legs (and fancy footwork) and “peep about” to find themselves “dishonorable graves.” Teams were so intimidated by Spain’s free flowing tiki-taka style that they would resort to desperate measures, including a Holland player delivering a karate kick to the sternum of fullback Xabi Alonso.
Perhaps envy and resentment fed on them as it feeds on Cassius. Here’s his reaction to the cheers Caesar is getting from the crowds:
Brutus: Another general shout!
I do believe that these applauses are
For some new honors that are heap’d on Caesar.
Cassius: Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves that we are underlings.
Brutus and Caesar: what should be in that “Caesar”?
Why should that name be sounded more than yours?
Write them together, yours is as fair a name;
Sound them, it doth become the mouth as well;
Weigh them, it is as heavy; conjure with ‘em,
“Brutus” will start a spirit as soon as “Caesar.”
Let’s say that “lean and hungry” Cassius is the spirit of those ambitious teams seeking to take Spain’s place. As Caesar rightly notes (he’s speaking of Cassius),
Such men as he be never at heart’s ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.
Well, the world’s teams have had the knives out for “La Roja” for some time and it is perhaps fitting that Spain’s last World Cup victim–the Dutch–administered the unkindest cut of all. The tournament is now wide open for a new Caesar to be crowned.