Spain starting without a regular forward:
In the last six years, Spain have been pinging the ball between the lines before one could say aburrido (boring in Spanish) three times, but they did not play at the same frenetic pace against Italy. And yet, they had their fill as they binged on four large slices of thin crust macaroni and cheese from the kitchens of Pizzeria Azzuri.
They did not spring another surprise by starting Alvaro Negredo in the final, but they reverted back to their original line-up that previously faced Italy in the group stages. With Fernando Torres restricted to making guest appearances that are no longer than a TV sitcom, Vincete del Bosque fell back to using Cesc Fabregas in an advanced role.
Spain are on a different dimension when compared to other teams. They were branded as ‘boring’ and yet del Bosque has defended his recent team selection saying that Spain have evolved.
“We cannot stay in the past century,” he said. “Football is evolving and our players have changed.
“The nucleus is the same but you cannot say we haven’t tried to change anything and have stayed on the same line.”
This is reminiscent of the evolution vs creation debate between academics and Roman Catholic church. Football purists support how Spain are doing things differently and then there are those who believe in Father Christmas and Easter Bunny.
Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger is not far behind from the debate.
“Spain have betrayed their philosophy and turned it into something more negative.
“Originally, they wanted possession in order to attack and win the game; now it seems to be first and foremost a way not to lose.
“They have become more conservative, and they don’t want to give the ball up because they don’t want to give you a chance to score.”
At Euro 2008, Spain had 56.6% of the ball and shot every 27.4 passes; in South Africa, that was 65.2%, a shot every 34.2 passes. This time round it is 67.4%, with Spain taking a shot every 42.9 passes (stats from Guardian).
It is true that Spain have been growing stronger and stronger as the years go by. They are just 33.6% away from becoming humanoids. Their zero-error syndrome may or may not catch on with the next generation, but this side have rode the bull for too long to be forgotten.
Prandelli’s hodgepodge decisions:
Prandelli has the patience of a 10 year old. He used all his subs before 60 minutes and his third substitution backfired and killed the game. Thiago Motta was brought on for Montolivo and after a few minutes, Motta pulled his hamstring. Italy were playing with 10 men for over half an hour.
Earlier Cassano was taken off at halftime for Antonio Di Natale, and the Udinese striker tried to exploit the space created by Jordi Alba’s frequent forays forward. However, his shots couldn’t get past Iker Casillas. Prandelli tried to play his cards close to the chest with a diamond formation instead of a 3-5-2 that suited him well, at a time when del Bosque was brave not to start with a regular forward.
“We came up against a terrific side, they are world champions, but when you are down to 10 men, you can’t carry on, the game is over,” Prandelli said.
“Perhaps we could have got back into the game at the start of the second half, we had two chances but of course once Thiago Motta went off injured, we didn’t have anything left in the tank.”
The move to bring on a defensive midfielder when the need of the hour was to find goals was daft. It is ‘game over’ for Mario Balotelli as he did not get any service from his brothers. Princess peach has no option but wait longer to be rescued. Regardless of the result, Italy leave Ukraine with their collars up. Only a diamond can cut a diamond, and Italy’s diamond formation was sliced straight through the middle.
Casillas – The man with the golden glove:
Casillas won his 100th international game last night, and currently he is at the peak of his career. Spain has never seen a goalkeeper as assured as Casillas standing in goal. He made the difference between the two sides by coming up with some fantastic saves. He has equaled Edwin Van der Sar’s record of nine clean sheets at the Euros.
”Iker has that ability to appear in decisive moments, that magic to make incredible saves in the biggest games, when you’re teetering on the edge,” says Alvaro Arbeloa.
In the group game against Italy, it was an end to end affair and last night it was a similar seesaw battle with the midfield as the fulcrum. However, Casillas threw his weight around and tipped the scales in Spain’s favour. The first few rounds saw the two teams spar each other before Casillas came up with some crucial blocks and counter punch with his fullbacks. He also successfully stitched up a team consisting of players largely from Barcelona and Real Madrid which was once divided.
After the last call is announced, the last order has been placed, and the last few drops are downed, the Spanish players will return back to being old foes once again as the league season kicks-off on 18th August.