If Luis Aragones started the trend in 2008, Vicente Del Bosque’s continuation with the Tiki-Taka with slight tweaks brought the world of football on its feet. Such was the swagger in the teams of Seleccion de Espana, who ruled the game for half a decade, accumulating two European championships and a World Cup in the process.
The fall, however, is inevitable as the principles of every game bring it out time and again, no champion stays at the top for eternity and to fall from grace is common. Spain’s utter humiliation at the hands of Louis Van Gaal’s Netherlands in the following world cup and a bitter defeat to Antonio Conte’s Italy in the Euros saw Del Bosque retreat and Julen Lopetegui was appointed.
The humiliation, however, it seems, hasn’t ended there as Spanish FA has taken a massive step to sack Lopetegui due to the coach’s involvement with Real Madrid and former Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro will take the reigns just two days before the team begins its campaign against Portugal. Spain qualified impressively by topping their qualification group with 28 points and with Hierro at the helm now, who’s worked with Lopetegui, we can expect no major changes but only slight modifications ahead of the journey.
It is said that simplicity is beautiful and Spain under Lopetegui went on to prove it in their own flamboyant way. The formation indeed is a simple 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 but the tactics and the level of detail, as well as the movement the Spanish players showed, was incredible. One can surely expect no changes to this formation because the football of the side is solely based on this system they’ve built at the moment.
Quite clearly, David De Gea has risen magnificently to pin his spot as the goal-keeper after the era of Iker Casillas and there’s no displacing him. Spain’s defence is a very popular one boasting some tremendous experience amidst its ranks but one must not confuse experience with quality. Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba will surely be the full-backs. Sergio Busquets remains one of the most vital pieces on the football pitch for Spain and there’s no debating as to what the midfielder will provide.
Ever since leaving Barcelona, Thiago has had a stellar spell at Bayern and has come good himself. He surely has to fend off the challenge from Koke or Saul but he’s expected to start too. David Silva has enjoyed a magnificent season with Manchester City under Guardiola and his quality that is world class won’t deny him from making the eleven. Iniesta and Isco remain fluent and are from different generations but their quality is something that only the soil of Spain has produced and will produce. Rodrigo or Aspas were favoured much more under the system of Lopetegui but Hierro might look at Diego Costa to lead the line and on his day, Diego is as deadly as venom.
Spain has supreme quality in their ranks with every player boasting a wide array of talent but there are three key-players in my mind who will absolutely be crucial for their World Cup hopes.
Defender Sergio Ramos is an able leader and there is no disputing that but leadership and experience do not imply that the quality will be good too. Far too often, Ramos has been criticized for his defensive mishaps or his ill positioning and bad temper but he needs to step up this World Cup and put those raised eye-brows to rest.
Isco Alcaron is one of the most delightful players to look at and he’s enjoyed a fabulous time under the tactics of Lopetegui and any Spanish fan would hope that this does not end with Hierro’s appointment. Isco’s form will be significant.
Forward Diego Costa switched from England to Spain and he hasn’t had a world class season or anything but he remains one of the lethal strikers of the game. He has to make sure that his hold-up play and his link-ups are better than ever to supplement this system and make his own room to score goals. Costa will be pivotal as well.
Spain remained one of the firm favourites I can say before Lopetegui got sacked and now nothing is really certain. Grouped with Portugal, Morocco and Iran, getting out of the group isn’t tough and even a possible round of 16 game against Uruguay or Egypt doesn’t seem tough. The real challenge will be the quarter-finals with a massive chance of facing off against Argentina or France or even the unpredictable Croatia. The best prediction is that they will reach the quarters.
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