With Portugal facing Spain in the Euro 2012 semi-finals in a matter of days it’s time to take a closer look at their Iberian neighbours. Tomorrow I’ll be looking at the history between the two sides…
Spain – FIFA ranking: 1st
Odds to win the tournament: 6/4
Style of play: The key to Spain’s attacking and fluent 4-3-3 formation (sometimes morphing into a 4-2-3-1) is tiki-taka, a pass-and-move game with an emphasis on possession and quick ball movement. Spain keeps a narrow shape in midfield and attacking, relying on the outside fullbacks to provide width. Setting up in front of the back four is the twin axis of Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso who serve as the link between defence and midfield. In front of them, Xavi acts as the main creator, pulling the strings with the help of Andres Iniesta and David Silva who tuck in from the flanks. With David Villa out, Fernando Llorente will lead the line up front.
Probable starting formation (4-3-3): (GK) Casillas – (D) Alba, Ramos, Pique, Arbeloa – (M) Alonso, Busquets, Xavi (F) Silva, Llorente, Iniesta
Depth – Even without the injured Carles Puyol and David Villa, Spain has incredible depth at every position on the field. How deep is the roster? So deep that Cesc Fabregas isn’t even a starter. So deep that Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea can’t even get onto the team.
Tiki-taka – The beautiful name given to Spain’s beautiful style of play that sees the Spaniards dictate the pace of games with short passes and their uncanny ability to retain possession, forcing their opponents to always be chasing the ball.
Confidence – They’re the number one ranked team in the world. They are the defending World and European champions. They went a perfect 8-0-0 in the qualifiers. They enter this tournament having won 14 consecutive competitive matches. Need we go on any further?
Fatigue – It was a very long season for the majority of Spain’s players. Most of the Barcelona and Real Madrid stars played over 50 matches this season, while Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona contested the Spanish Cup final on May 25. Fatigue will certainly be an issue.
History – There’s a reason why no nation has won three major tournaments in a row. France came close (winning the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000) before bowing out in the first round of the 2002 World Cup. Being the best in the world isn’t easy, especially when everyone is gunning for you.
Players to watch:
Andres Iniesta – Often overshadowed by Spain teammates Xavi and David Villa, Iniesta is a world-class midfielder who combines balance, ball control and agility, and great technical ability.
Xavi – Perhaps the best player Spain has ever produced, Xavi serves as his country’s on-field general, teaming with Iniesta to form the best working midfield duo in world soccer today.
Iker Casillas – One of the best goalkeepers in the world, the Real Madrid star is an athletic shot stopper who is not only capable of making brilliant saves but also effectively organizes the defence in front of him.
Squad: GK: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, Victor Valdes, DF: Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa, Raul Albiol, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Juanfran Torres, MF: Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Javi Martinez, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, FW: David Silva, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres, Jesus Navas, Pedro Rodriguez, Alvaro Negredo
Coach: Vicente del Bosque
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