Archives for posts with tag: Vicente Del Bosque

by Elliott

For almost a century, money and soccer lived an uneasy relationship. Teams scraped by on modest sponsorships and reliable but not cosmic TV deals. They competed for players, but dollars and cents arms races were rare. Then came the Galácticos. Read the rest of this entry »

Spain's future?

Since 2008, Spain, first under Luis Aragonés and then Vicente Del Bosque, have thrilled the world with their wonderfully aesthetic ‘Tiki Taka’ style of football. Reaping the benefits of a remarkably gifted generation, the likes of Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol and David Villa have driven La Furia Roja to both the European and World titles. Read the rest of this entry »

Vicente Del Bosque has used his press conferences in recent weeks to try and shake off the “favourites” tag which has been attached to his side ahead of the World Cup, something he sees as an unnecessary burden upon the shoulders of his players. Superlative performances such as last night’s 6-0 demolition of Poland in Murcia, however, will hardly serve to dampen the expectations surrounding this beautifully balanced and cohesive Spanish team.

Football Fans Know BetterSet-up in the 4-2-3-1 system the Coach has favoured in the pre-tournament friendlies, with Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso both deployed as holding players in the midfield, Spain went about unpicking Franciszek Smuda’s side with the domineering possession football and exquisite passing we have come to expect from La Furia Roja.

Indeed, the team that took to the field last night was very close to being the eleven that is expected to take to the field against Switzerland in Durban a week on Monday, with Sergio Ramos coming in for Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back being the only likely change.

One of the most notable elements of Spain’s play was the regularity with which David Silva and Andres Iniesta, the team’s nominal wingers, cut inside to link up with David Villa in attack, with Alvaro Arbeloa and Joan Capdevila – full-backs of an adventurous nature – given extra space into which they could get forward and overlap, providing secondary width to the attacks and causing their opposite numbers to be overloaded in defence.

This additional width has made and continues to make Del Bosque’s team a fearful prospect for opposing defences and played a significant role in the goals of Villa and Fernando Torres, both of which saw the Polish full-backs pulled out of position and exposed by the rapidity of the Spanish pass-and-move game.

It was also interesting to observe the roles which were adopted by the three central players (Busquets, Alonso and Xavi), and how they altered over the course of the game. Xavi, of course, played far enough advanced to make the system appear more of a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-3-3 (although the formation could, at times, be seen to be the latter), pulling the strings roughly 30-40 yards from goal as he has done so effectively for Barcelona for more than a decade now, and acting as the fulcrum through which the team’s creativity is channeled.

Both Busquets and Alonso, however, played from a deeper position, taking it in turns to get forward when required, with the Real Madrid player adopting the more active role in build-up play, spraying diagonal balls to the flanks in the “quarter-back” fashion that has become increasingly popular of late. Of the two, it was Busquets who was given slightly more defensive responsibility, almost becoming an auxiliary centre-half on those rare occasions when Spain gave the ball away and were forced to defend Polish set-pieces.

Such is the breathtaking strength-in-depth of this Spanish squad, the replacement of Xavi with Cesc Fabregas mid-way through the second-half saw no break in the rhythm and fluency of their passing, with the Arsenal playmaker excelling and even getting himself on the score sheet, a major positive for Del Bosque considering the concerns over Cesc’s fitness in the build-up to the World Cup and the possible need for an understudy to Xavi, a player who is not 100% fit himself. The Coach will also be buoyed by the goalscoring return of Fernando Torres – who made his first appearance since recovering from his own recent injury problems – and Pedro’s first international goal, a deft chip over the helpless Tomasz Kuszcak to complete the six-goal rout. It may have “only” been a friendly, but Spain will take a great deal of heart from last night’s performance, a performance which showed the team at its very best in the wake of two slightly below-par displays against South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

Del Bosque’s men, with their aesthetic brand of football (see David Silva’s goal below for a prime example) and strong team spirit, will travel to South Africa on Thursday as the deserved favourites to lift the World Cup for what would be the first time  in their country’s history. If they continue to play as they have been for the last three years, then surely only Dunga’s Brazil and, perhaps, the weight of history can stop them now. Spain expects, it’s up to the players to deliver on the biggest stage of them all.

For so long chronic underachievers on the international stage, everything changed for Spain two years ago at Euro 2008. That campaign in Austria and Switzerland, a campaign which ended with glory in Vienna, saw the team establish itself as the most attractive national side in the world game, a team founded on the principles of possession and quick, sharp passing football.

Since then Luis Aragones, who led Spain to that first triumph in 44 years, has departed and been replaced at the helm by the popular Vicente Del Bosque who has gone about building on his predecessor’s success and making very slight but effective alterations to what was already an exceptionally well-balanced side. Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, arguably the best centre-half in world football, has incrementally replaced Carlos Marchena at the back, with Xabi Alonso gradually being given more time in the centre of midfield, taking on aspects of the role once carried out by Marcos Senna. However, other than these minor and relatively seamless changes, the Spanish side remains much the same as it was two years ago, but has an added experience and cohesion within the group which, if anything, makes La Furia Roja an even more formidable prospect than they were 24 months ago.

Exemplary in the build-up to the World Cup, Del Bosque’s side set a new record in qualifying by being the first European team ever to progress to the finals with a 100% record, overcoming the likes of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Turkey and Belgium – all strong sides – with a comfort rarely seen at that level. In winning all ten of their fixtures, the campaign saw Spain become firmly established as the form team in international football and the favourites for this summer’s World Cup, a tag the country has never been saddled with in the past.

With a fully fit squad Del Bosque has demonstrated a preference for a basic 4-4-2 shape, the system which best accommodates the substantial talents of the team’s very best players, and is made flexible by the quick pass-and-move football Spain play. Iker Casillas, one of the game’s most consistently excellent goalkeepers over the last decade, is an automatic selection between the posts, and is protected by a back four centred around the Barcelona pairing of Pique and Carlos Puyol at the heart of the defence. With Alonso playing the holding role in the midfield, Xavi, an unrivaled passer of the ball, is given total creative license and is the architect of the vast majority of Spain’s attacking endeavours, knitting the midfield to the attack with an incredible ease. In the wide areas Andres Iniesta and Valencia’s David Silva continually switch flanks and change their angle of attack to torment opposition full-backs, whilst David Villa and Fernando Torres represent one of the most potent strike forces in the game. Spain are even strong from the bench, with the likes of Pedro, Jesus Navas, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and Fernando Llorente all adding their own unique qualities and giving the squad an unparalleled strength in depth.

Looking for weaknesses in this Spanish side is often a futile task, but they can be exposed at full-back where Sergio Ramos can be over-enthusiastic to get forward on occasion and, as a result, is caught out of position all too regularly. Similarly, on the left side of the defence, Villarreal’s Joan Capdevila is the most technically limited member of the starting eleven and, lacking in pace, can be exposed by top-class right midfielders. However, to exploit these weaknesses the opposition must first wrestle the ball away from the Spanish, something that has proved a near-impossible task for many teams in recent years.

Spain undoubtedly arrive in South Africa as the favourites to claim the first world title in their country’s history and, with a pool of some of the modern era’s most technically gifted players at their disposal, should be serious contenders in the latter stages of the competition. It remains to be seen whether or not Brazil’s new robust game plan will be able to disrupt Del Bosque’s men, but, beyond the South Americans, it is hard to see how the Spanish can be stopped. It could be a historic summer for La Roja.

Probable starting XI: Casillas (Real Madrid); Ramos (Real Madrid), Pique (Barcelona), Puyol (Barcelona), Capdevila (Villarreal); Iniesta (Barcelona), Alonso (Real Madrid), Xavi (Barcelona), Silva (Valencia); Villa (Barcelona), Torres (Liverpool)

The Road to South Africa: 1st in UEFA qualifying Group 5

World Ranking: 2nd

Odds: 4/1

Football Fans Know Better

Spain 3 (Villa, Alonso, Llorente) Saudi Arabia 2 (Hawasawi, Namare)

Although Spain’s narrow 3-2 victory over Saudi Arabia, snatched at the last minute thanks to a Fernando Llorente header, may appear, on paper, to be a relatively poor result for the reigning European Champions and World Cup favourites, such an analysis would not be an accurate one.

With Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas both doubts for the game with knee and shin injuries respectively, Vicente Del Bosque adapted his system, dispensing with the 4-4-2 formation he used throughout the majority of his team’s qualifying campaign, instead opting for a 4-2-3-1 using Barcelona’s David Villa as the lone striker. The one experiment at the back saw Alvaro Arbeloa tested at left-back alongside the more established trio of Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Carlos Puyol. Del Bosque made a handful of changes to his back line over the course of the second period, shifting Arbeloa to his natural position as a right-back, whilst bringing Carlos Marchena in at centre-half alongside Pique and slotting Joan Capdevila in at left-back.

In the midfield, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets were deployed as the holding midfielders and played the full 90 minutes (a strong signal as to Del Bosque’s plans for South Africa?), whilst Xavi adopted a more advanced central role with Andres Iniesta and David Silva the nominal right and left-sided players, although they swapped flanks regularly and to good effect throughout the match before being replaced by Jesus Navas and Pedro, both of whom gave impressively high-tempo performances, on the hour. Athletic Bilbao’s Javi Martinez also made an appearance, coming on for Xavi, but struggled to make an impact and is almost certain to be consigned to a non-playing role this summer as the third-choice central creative midfielder behind both Xavi and Fabregas.

Up front, David Villa was changed for Fernando Llorente with around 20 minutes to go, the Bilbao striker making a favourable impression, scoring the winning goal and displaying a good work ethic in the limited playing time he was afforded by Del Bosque. Llorente is a superb option for the Spanish Coach to have on the bench and, all being well, could have an important role to play in South Africa as an impact substitute should La Furia Roja ever be struggling to break their opponents down.

How Spain started (top) and finished (bottom) the game:

Football Fans Know Better

Football    Fans Know Better

Spain played some excellent football this evening, particularly in the wide areas where full-backs were beaten and crossing opportunities created with great regularity, but, despite the ease and comfort the Spanish exuded when in possession, there were a few minor question marks over the defensive performance.

Usually so adept at dealing with set-pieces, Saudi Arabia’s first goal, a header from an unmarked Osama Hawasawi, saw an uncharacteristic lack of communication between Iker Casillas and Gerard Pique which allowed the Saudi defender to steal in to convert the corner. There were also issues with Alvaro Arbeloa’s performance, the Real Madrid man being caught out of position on several occasions, particularly at left-back where Carlos Puyol ended up bailing him out far too often than he should have had to. This game was a big chance for Arbeloa to impress and challenge Capdevila for the position on the left of defence, but it is unlikely that the former Liverpool man’s display will have increased his chances of making the starting eleven come June 16th.

Yes, there were a small number of defensive issues highlighted by a headstrong Saudi Arabian side tonight, but Spain played some of their typically excellent football and dominated possession for large swathes of the game. The European Champions were  particularly impressive during the second half when Pedro and Navas caused their opponents some real problems in combination with the intelligent overlapping runs of the full-backs, and were unlucky to concede a second goal which came via a fluke deflection leaving Iker Casillas stranded.

Don’t believe the stories of Spanish capitulation elements of the British tabloid press will undoubtedly spin tomorrow, La Roja don’t have anything to be concerned about just yet.


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