How to beat Spain at the World Cup

Spain are the bookmakers’ favourite to lift the World Cup iin South Africa this summer. And La Furia Roja will want to put their previous failures behind them conclusively. Their attractive brand of football is, however, not without its pitfalls.

5. Anti-football

Jose Mourinho engineered the most unlikely of wins for Inter Milan when his side beat Barcelona en route to European glory. The tactic was simple to let the Catalans have the ball in areas of the pitch where they couldn’t cause harm. The Spaniards were unable to break down a rigid Italian defence at the European Championships as the Azzurri employed a similar anti-football policy. Switzerland who became the first team to go out of the World Cup without conceding a goal in Germany are likely to frustrate Del Bosque’s men with a dogged, defensive display.

4. Force them wide

Spain come into this World Cup with only David Silva as a true and proven winger. Their attacks are likely to be built down the middle through the likes of Xavi and Iniesta. Iniesta has been used as a left winger on many occasions but the Spaniard’s abilities are restricted with such a deployment. If opponents are able to force Spain on the flanks, they would have a good chance of limiting the chances the European champions create as neither David Villa nor Fernando Torres have particularly good aerial prowess.

3. Spanish temperament

Ideally, all doubts about the temperament of the Spanish side should have been laid to rest after the team’s Euro 2008 win, but sceptics would still like to see more to believe in La Furia Roja. The fact that Spain have never made it to the finals of the world’s grandest event will always count against them. In Germany, the team was expected to finally prove a point but a Zinedine Zidane inspired France sent them packing in just the second round. This time it is likely that Spain will come up against Portugal in the Round of 16, a tie which may well go either way considering the fierce Iberian rivalry.

2. Counter-attacks

The USA produced the shock of last year when they ended Spain’s undefeated record at the Confederations Cup. The Spaniards had almost 30 shots at goal as compared to 9 for the USA, but the Yanks still came off with a 2-0 victory. A win founded on precision finishing and capitalizing on the limited chances was a blueprint to beating Spain. The Americans stuck to a formation that allowed them to keep eight men behind the ball in defence and release players quickly on the counter. Such a strategy may once again prove to be Spain’s undoing, as both their fullbacks have an affinity to going forward.

1. No holding midfielder

Omitting Marcos Senna from the World Cup squad has been Vicente Del Bosque’s most surprising decision. Senna was the protagonist of Spain’s European win in 2008 and his exclusion leaves the Spanish without a traditional holding midfielder. Sergio Busquets is by no means a suitable replacement as the young Catalan has not yet matured into a complete player and tends to go forward a lot more than needed. Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique will require cover as both Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevila commit themselves forward extensively. A trequartista should be able to exploit this gap through the middle effectively.


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