Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Five Ways Spain Can Beat Germany

Once again, the Iberian peninsula has been allowed to dream as Spain now find themselves making history, progressing to the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history.

With shadows of the Euro 2008 final looming, La Furia Roja have united the ethnically diverse and, at times, very much fragmented regions of Spain, as Catalans, Basques, Andalusians, Valencians, Galicians, and Madrilenos (among others) have put aside some of their deepest political divisions to support their football team and, if only for this short time in history, collectively take pride in calling themselves Spaniards.

But standing between Spain and their dream of a final berth are Germany, a team that not only have a storied history in the World Cup, but have also looked particularly strong during South Africa 2010.

Beating the Germans will be far from easy and, as evidenced by the blitzkrieg that overran Diego Maradona’s Argentina, many anticipate a clash of bordering nations in a Germany-Netherlands final.

But if Vicente del Bosque’s Spanish squad are to fulfil their childhood dreams and secure an unprecedented final berth, they must do so in the following manner:

1) Score

To win matches, one must score goals. As obvious as it sounds, this is something that has not come easily to the usually free-flowing Spanish attack in South Africa this summer. With Fernando Torres struggling to find his best form, David Villa has certainly done well to pick up the slack. But against German marking, Villa cannot be the sole source of danger and Spain must find a way to put away the rest of their chances, whether they come from the midfielders or front line. Over the course of the past two seasons, Torres has had quite a bit of difficulty scoring for Spain. But no goal reigns higher in Spain’s short history of international success than Torres’ against Germany in the Euro 2008 final. If El Nino can repeat his performance of two summers past alongside Villa, Spain will have a much greater chance of progressing.

2) Defend

It is no secret that the Germans love to push forward, particularly on the counter-attack. While World Cup phenom Thomas Mueller will fortunately be absent from the German ranks, Spain still have a host of dangerous players to mark and contain. The back line Barcelona pairing of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique in central defence must do well to rein in Miroslav Klose, while Sergio Ramos will need to stay honest in his marauding runs forward in order to keep an eye on the mercurial Lukas Podolski. In the midfield, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso will also have to be at rapt attention in order to keep young sensation Mesut Oezil and midfield powerhouse Bastian Schweinsteiger quiet. Spain do most of their defending by keeping possession - after all, another team cannot threaten Iker Casillas if without the ball. But when Germany do come forward, La Roja need to be at full attention in defence, in order to come out as victors.

3) Pay Careful Attention To Details

In the World Cup, little mistakes can lead to grave errors. Against Paraguay, it was Sergio Ramos’ misplaced header backwards against the run of play that led to the Paraguayan corner kick and subsequent penalty against Gerard Pique. Casillas did very well to save the ensuing spot-kick and the rest is history, but in matches featuring such elite competition, the slightest error and slip of focus can break a match wide open. To win against a much more ruthless Germany, this is something Spain must be conscious of – every player needs to make sure he is completely focused, not cheaply giving up possession or conceding set pieces. In matches featuring such talented athletes, astuteness ends up being the separating quality. For Spain to reach the final, mentally, there is no room for error.

4) Utilise Squad Depth

When looking down the line at the Spanish bench, it is no wonder some of the press have commented on the fact that Spain could field another national team just from their second-string players. With such names as Cesc Fabregas (albeit he has picked up a knock and may be unfit to play in tonight’s mouth-watering fixture), Fernando Llorente, Jesus Navas, David Silva, Juan Mata, Pedro Rodriguez and many more, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has a treasure trove of options available to him, should circumstances require that he change tactics midway through tonight’s affair. 

5) Play With Spanish Flair

Spain’s style of play is no secret: intricate one-touch passing through the midfield, long spells of possession, and visionary final balls fed into the area. It is a style by which La Seleccion has both lived (having lifted a European championship on the heels of such play) and died (e.g. their 1-0 defeat to Switzerland to open the World Cup). 

But it is a wonderfully technical style that has come to define Spanish football and if La Roja are to succeed in tonight’s semi-final, they must remain faithful to that brand of flowing passing to create chances, immediately recovering possession to quash the blitzkrieg German counter-attack before it starts, and imposing their will upon the proceedings. If Spain can begin the match on the front foot, come out confidently, and dictate the pace of the match, as they have come to do so often in recent years, they have a much greater chance of beating Germany and fulfilling what many believe to be their destiny of progressing to the World Cup final to face the Dutch.

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