I had to say the Spain v Italy clash in World Cup qualifiers on Saturday night fascinated me. How two such big footballing countries ended up in one group is beyond me. The two teams were neck and neck for the one automatic qualification spot. Until Saturday’s game that is.
I expected it to be a rather cagey, niggly game, with Italy providing their usually stout defence. However, Spain playing a striker-less system, as they have done quite a bit in this decade were simply too good for the Italians.
La Roja were in complete control in a commanding 3-0 win at the Bernabeu. Italy had possession at points during the game, but it seemed like that was only when Spain wanted them to have the ball. The Azzurri backline, famous for their toughness had no answer to the Spanish verve and energy.
Current team looks highly promising
During the last ten years, Spain have had a scary amount of talent available to them. When the era of Xavi finished, there seemed to be a slight pause in the Spanish success at international level, despite the continued European success of Spain’s big two in the club game.
The current team, though, looks well equipped to rival the great team. Spain played with no nominal central striker, that meant the attacking midfielders had to break forward to make the formation a success. The likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Marco Asensio and in particular star of the show Isco, took turns at breaking forward.
Their sheer creativity, vision and cleverness confused the life out of a high-experienced centre-back pair of Leonardo Bonucci and Andre Barzagli. At times Spain seemed to break through the Azzurri defence at will, such was their football intelligence. The Italian midfield offered no answer to Spain’s incisive play either.
The move to deploy a striker-less system worked a treat. Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata came off the bench with less than 20 minutes on the clock and notched the Spaniard’s third goal. He could have had another goal but fired wide when put through on goal.
Spain finished the game with both Morata and veteran David Villa on the pitch, which showed that boss Julen Lopetegui is flexible and not tactically rigid.
Isco the star
Real Madrid attacking midfielder Isco is now fulfilling his star billing. At club level, he has started matured over the past few seasons and become more influential for Los Blancos, despite always being a first-team starter.
At 25, he is starting to fulfil the potential that saw him labelled a wonderkid in his late teen years. He ran the show against Italy. If he continues in a similar vein in the future, he could very well be one of the most influential players in a highly talented Spain team for years to come.
The way he plays the game is majestic and he is a joy to watch at times. Once linked with a move to Premier League Tottenham. I have no doubt that the former Malaga star will be starring for Real Madrid and Spain for a long time. Unlucky Spurs!
Spain still one of the best teams in the world
Despite a rough couple of years by their recent incredible standards, Spain are still one of the best teams in the international game. The current team seem to play a brand of football that is easy on the eye and critics would find it hard to criticise the current set-up.
Lopetegui has come through the ranks coaching wise, having managed the under-21 team to European Championship trophy in 2013 and the under 19’s before moving up. The 51-year-old seems now to have found a bridge from the old era to the new, with the likes of Silva and Iniesta, alongside younger players such as Asensio and Isco.
Some would argue that La Roja are still a striker-light of being a complete team. However, if Alvaro Morata can continue his fine form at both club and international level, then maybe the 24-year-old will be the answer if they even need a striker that is.
Spain are currently odds of 9/1 with one bookie to win next year’s World Cup in Russia. I have to say I would be very tempted by those odds after Saturday’s performance.
La Roja were not playing easy opposition, but they made the win look effortless. I suspect we may be on the cusp of Spain producing yet another great team. Watch this space!
Is Spain the best team in international football?
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