SportzWiki brings to you a tactical lowdown on the teams gunning for the ultimate prize: the FIFA World Cup. World and European champions Spain are under the firing line, as we assess the various tactical plans in order for La Furia Roja, their strengths and weaknesses and how they could do the job.
After breezing through to win the Euro 2012, Spain sealed their spot in the World Cup with some ease, although France did pose some worrying moments on the way. But as they have known and learnt to do, Spain got out of jail with consummate ease. Vicente del Bosque’s side chase history yet again, and this time the stakes have got a little bit higher for their own liking. Brazil has already been tasted before, last year’s Confederation Cup loss against Brazil will provide a sweet reminder that under no circumstances should they take things for granted. And the conditions won’t do them any favour either.
Spain’s tactics on-paper is easier to figure out, but they rarely go by the books. Del Bosque will once again go for his favoured 4-3-3, with or without a proper number nine. The trusted trio of Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Xavi should form the obvious midfield axis, and there should not be room for a change in shape, regardless of the circumstances. Spain have a plethora of attacking talents, the personnel is more of a problem than shape. Depending on the players he deploys forward, the shape could turn into a pseudo 4-5-1 or a 4-2-4. Spain’s possession based game seems predictable enough, but the fact that they know how to win games could be the big difference.
No more false nines?
Euro 2012 saw Spain lining up in unusual, unorthodox striker-less formations with a glut of highly creative and flair midfielders making up the numbers up front. But that had more to do with an injury to their record goalscorer David Villa and the lack of goalscoring form of the other forwards in Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente. But Spain are well-stocked this time around, and the biggest reason for hope being the newly-capped goal-machine Diego Costa. The other forwards in Llorente and Alvaro Negredo do not look too bad, and it is time that Del Bosque lays to rest his false nine concepts. All of Spain’s forwards love the direct, more physical game with lesser fuss; this unpredictability could be a boon for La Roja this summer.
The ability to change going forward
Spain’s mudpool of attacking talent means that they could change the dynamics of a game with one key change during a game. Del Bosque’s favoured setup would see David Silva and Andres Iniesta ahead of the midfield trio flanking the lone man upfront, on current form that is. Both are flamboyant, creative midfielders who love to dribble and caress their way infield. This makes for a compact zone in the middle with no wide outlets, which would make sense against some teams. But looking at the bench with the brilliant options out wide; the likes of Pedro, Jesus Navas, Santi Cazorla and even Koke could change the setup completely, although the shape remains largely the same. This opens up the width in spectacular fashion, and could cause more than a few damages to teams expecting a one-way throttle from Spain.
It is somewhat worrying that Del Bosque has gone for an inexperienced back-line for an event of such magnitude and consequence. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are the most experienced duo, the rest are unproven or youngsters making the grade up. The full-backs Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa were run ragged in the Confeds and the Euros; and it is somewhat good riddance that the weak-link Arbeloa isn’t on the travelling party owing to injury. Still Alba remains a big concern, although not that big when the right-backs are assessed. Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran looks odds-on favourite to play there, but he has only played seven times for Spain before. The other options in Carvajal and Cesar Azpilicueta are even more inexperienced on the big stage. Alba’s understudy Alberto Moreno is uncapped too. Spain’s defence looks hopelessly deficient this time around, probably summed up by the selection of the walking calamity Raul Albiol in place of the retired Carles Puyol.