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Gaizka Mendieta on scoring THAT penalty against Ireland and how football is changing

The former Spain player still has vivid memories of knocking the Irish team out of the World Cup.

Spain's Gaizka Mendieta celebrates after he scoring the winning penalty against Ireland.
Spain's Gaizka Mendieta celebrates after he scoring the winning penalty against Ireland.

FORMER SPAIN INTERNATIONAL and La Liga pundit Gaizka Mendieta believes individual stars are becoming more marginalised in football, with Germany’s recent World Cup win epitomising this trend.

Mendieta, who played for a number of illustrious clubs including Barcelona and Lazio, says it is harder than ever for world-class players such as Lionel Messi to stand out.

“Football has become such an athletic sport,” he tells TheScore.ie. “It’s difficult for the best players in the world — Messi, Robben, Ronaldo — it’s becoming very difficult for them to win matches over and over again. You need 11 players to perform. And Germany achieved that at the World Cup, as Spain did a few years ago.”

The 40-year-old Spanish football analyst also feels that the Germans are the archetypal modern international team, given their lack of an obvious standout player.

“At the World Cup, Germany were the most consistent team throughout the tournament. Argentina were a team that started quietly but grew in confidence, but the loss of Angel Di Maria was a big miss for the final. Netherlands could have been there as well, but it’s fair to say that Germany were the best team. When you talk about Germany’s team, it was an attacking team, it was a defending team — everything worked in a team way and that was important.

“For Argentina, there was Messi, for Portugal, Ronaldo — there is always a man that stands over the rest with these teams, but Germany got the balance right by having several fantastic players, and they kept the same standards throughout the tournament.”

This new style of football, which the Germans among many others employ, is a long way off the way in which the game was played in previous decades.

“It’s a different type of football to the 70s and 80s now. Back then, players would get the ball and have time to stop the ball, look up, think and then act on the consequence, whereas nowadays, you have to think before you get the ball.

“Everything has become so athletic, so dynamic. It makes it more difficult for the individual to stand out, because you have to be as fit as other players, and intelligent and technically gifted to be better than anyone else. That requires a lot of demand from your body and mind and that’s why it’s so difficult.”

Meanwhile, in terms of his own career in international football, the former Middlesbrough star is probably best known in Ireland for scoring the winning penalty in the 2002 World Cup last 16 shootout between the Boys in Green and Spain.

Does he have particularly vivid memories of this game?

“I remember the game, and scoring the penalty, clearly,” he says. “I remember it being very tight. Either of the teams could have won it, because Ireland had a few chances in the game, we had a few chances. It came down to the penalty shootout, which I wouldn’t say comes down to luck, but it’s less reflective of what the game was.

“Obviously for us, we were knocked out by the host team, Korea [in the quarter-finals], with some controversial decisions by the referee. But for Ireland, it was one of the closest times to getting that far, so good memories for us, not so good for you.”

Former Spanish International footballer, Gaizka Mendieta and his fellow La Liga pundit Guillem Balague, visited Dublin with thanks to the Guinness Plus app for a special preview of the Guinness International Champions Cup pre-season tournament, which takes place in the United States until August 4th and is live on Sky Sports featuring eight of the world’s top clubs including Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid. More extraordinary rewards including unrivalled access to other Guinness events and festivals throughout 2014 will be announced in the coming weeks.  The Guinness Plus App is available to download for iPhone and Android Smartphones from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store now.

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Paul Fennessy

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