Archive | June, 2014

Why Spain got Knocked out of the World Cup

20 Jun

Furia_Roja_by_akative

 

1. Inability to score first: Back in South Africa in 2010, Spain won each of their knockout round games against Portugal, Paraguay, Germany, and then finally the Netherlands in the Final by scores of 1-0. Spain never won by putting the ball in the net time and time again- they used possession as their defense- wearing the opponent down in the midfield. Players like Xavi, Xabi Alonso, and Iniesta were constantly on the ball, moving it around. This tiki-taka, total football strategy only works if the score is 0-0, or if Spain is leading. Spain never was in the position where they had to come back from being more than a goal down. This time around in 2014 in Brazil, Spain found themselves down early against the Netherlands, and then to Chile. Spain does not have the offensive firepower, nor the counterattacking ability to overcome deficits.

2. Awful Goal Keeping: Iker Casillas, the captain of this team and of his domestic club Real Madrid, had two of the worst games of his career against Netherlands and Chile. There were opportunities for huge saves- saves which he made in 2010 and in the Euro 2012- but Iker lacked the ability (physically and mentally) to get it done. In order for a soccer team to win a game, the winning goal keeper must makes at least 2 huge saves in the game. Iker didn’t show up, and never looked sharp. Part of this can be attributed to his lack of playing time at Real Madrid this past season- as his full time goal keeping duties were split, primarily in league games, with Diego Lopez.

3. Awful Defending: Sergio Ramos, widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the world, looked absolutely awful in these 2 games. His communication with Pique in the first game was horrid- the two of them ran into each other, and seemingly loss site of the ball on several occasions. In the second game, he was way too aggressive, overcompensating and over-pursuing the ball rather than staying at home in the center of the goal. This Ramos was different than the one who was arguably the best player in the UEFA Champions League Campaign. There is a very good chance Ramos in named captain for Spain at the next major international tournament (Euro 2016 in France), but this most recent performance is definitely a concern for the player, and the future of Spain.

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The Lineup Spain Should Start in Brazil at the World Cup

10 Jun

Premise: As defending World Cup champions Spain enter this 2014 tournament in Brazil as one of the favorites (along with host nation Brazil, Germany, and Argentina among others), Spanish Manager Vicente del Bosque has a difficult decision when it comes to picking his initial starting xi. Below is the team I would select as the one that gives La Roja the best chance of defending their title.

Here is a 4-2-3-1, the formation Del Bosque has used most often both in the previous World Cup, as well as in the European Championship in 2012.

 

Goal Keeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)- Spain’s captain has 154 caps heading into this world cup. Pepe Reina and David de Gea are serviceable backups and definitely capable of performing well in a starting role, but until Iker retires- this spot belongs to him and him alone.

Right Back: Cesar Azpilacueta (Chelsea)- Azpilacueta is a hard nosed, intelligent defender capable of playing on either side of the field. Despite only having 6 caps, the 24-year old player is strong and quick enough to guard even the world’s best wingers. He had an exceptional season at Chelsea in the Premier League, and is well suited to defend an opposing side at any pace.

Center Back: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)- In his prime at the age of 28, Ramos already has 117 caps for the national team and has started some of the biggest games La Roja has ever been apart of, including the World Cup 2010 Final, and the Euro 2012 Final as well. The best Spanish defender, and one of the best defenders in the world, Ramos is one of the most important players on this team.

Center Back: Gerard Pique (Barcelona)- The man married to Shakira is, like Ramos, one of the best defenders in Spain. Similar to his counterpart, he has started in Spain’s 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euro Finals. The Barcelona defender has great passing ability, and has great chemistry with the rest of the squad.

Left Back: Jordi Alba (Barcelona)- Alba burst onto the scene and really made a name for himself in Euro 2012, where he received most of the starting minutes at the left back position. With an incredible burst of speed, and lightning quick passing ability, Alba’s greatest strengths are his abilities to blend in and be part of the attack going forward. With a lack of natural wing players on this team, Alba will be counted on to push the ball down the flank, looking to cross the ball into Diego Costa.

Holding Mid: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)- Barcelona’s defensive midfielder is one of the best players in the world at his position. While he often gets a bad rep for flopping and being overly dramatic, his work rate at getting the ball back, and his initial pressure is often what leads Spain to hold onto the ball as much as they do. He is considered this team’s (and his club Barcelona) first defender, and will lay it all on the line to make sure Spain has the ball.

Holding Mid: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)- With 111 caps, Xabi Alonso is one the staples of Del Bosque’s first team selection. While his responsibilities are similar to Busquets’, Alonso’s greatest strength is his long range passing. Patient with the ball, what he lacks in overall athleticism is made up for in his ability to pick out a pass from anywhere on the pitch. His soccer IQ is second to none both on this team, and arguably in this entire tournament.

Right Wing: David Silva (Manchester City)- David Silva is an elite player, and one of the best in the Premier League. With 80 caps, Silva can play in the midfield or on either wing, and is often relied upon to score goals in the midst of a possession, tiki-taka based strategy. Silva has an exceptional, lungeing 2,3 steps heading into the box, where he will often look to shoot, or cross the ball inside. A fantastic team player who’s willing to play anywhere and do what it takes to make sure his team is successful.

Center Attacking Mid: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)- There is not a better player on the planet than Andres Iniesta. I know, Messi and Ronaldo fans would strongly disagree with that statement, but as far as an overall, team oriented brand of soccer, Iniesta is as good as there is. The hero of the 2010 World Cup Final, the most important goal in the history of the Spanish National team, Iniesta is as consistently brilliant as anyone i’ve ever watched play the game. I chose him for this role because he is the engine that will get this team going- he is the decision maker, and the ball should be at his feet more than any other player on this team.

Left Wing: Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona)- Pedro is the only true, natural wing player on this entire Spanish side (after Jesus Navas was left off the team), making his role extremely important. Arguably the fastest player on the team, Pedro will be relied upon to feed striker Diego Costa, as well as to mesh well and seamlessly the rest of the midfield. Pedro is a hard worker and has experience playing in big games, having started in the 2010 World Cup Final, having come on as a substitute in the Euro 2012 Final as well.

Striker: Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, for now)- Costa is a major wild card for this Spanish national team. With only 2 appearances (in friendlies) with this team, Costa is brand new to La Roja after spurning Brazil in order to play for Del Bosque. Costa had an incredible season with La Liga Champions Atletico Madrid, scoring 27 leauge goals. 6’2 and strong enough to body up on most center backs, Costa will be counted on to score goals and make plays in front of net.

Key Substitutions: Xavi (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid)