Confederations Cup: Five issues Spain need to address before 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Can Vicente Del Bosque drop Xavi?

It was a rather unusual sight, on Sunday evening, as Spain – world and two-time European champions – were ripped to pieces by Brazil, whose last title was in 2007 and have barely looked like a meaningful team since.

The Confederations Cup is not the World Cup and of course Spain still have the resources to win in Brazil next summer. Last night they had David Silva, Javi Martinez and Cesc Fabregas on the bench.

But this was a tournament they desperately wanted to win, and they were profoundly beaten in the final. Clearly, then, there are some issues they need to address.

Fatigue

Too many of these players have just played too many games. It is not a radically different squad from that which played Euro 2008, or Confederations Cup 2009, or World Cup 2010, or Euro 2012. They have had one summer off since 2007, as well, of course, as exhausting domestic seasons. The final was Juan Mata’s 75 game of the season and he is not unique.

For many, it is starting to show. Xavi has not been the same player over the last 12 months or so, and neither has David Silva and neither has Cesc Fabregas. The workload is starting to take its toll.

Midfield balance

Many thought that playing Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso last summer was too conservative, but this summer’s plan of leaving Busquets alongside Xavi did not work perfectly either. Spain were vulnerable against Brazil’s counter-attacking at pace. They would certainly be a stronger unit with Alonso there, or the remarkable all-rounder Javi Martinez, but they would need to decide who to drop.

Xavi

So Vicente Del Bosque may have to confront a very difficult question: can he drop Xavi? For the last five years, Xavi has been Spain’s most important player, the tempo-setter, the director, the link between the futuristic passing style of Barcelona and Spain.

But he will turn 34 this coming season and has clearly lost a bit of sharpness from his legs, losing that puckish ever-presence which is a pre-requisite of his control. Maybe he will have a good pre-season and recover next year, but Spain need to start thinking about ways to use him differently – maybe further forward, maybe as a second-half game-breaker – with a different initial balance.

The front line

Last year Spain tried without a centre-forward, using Cesc Fabregas up front in the Euro 2012 final. In this year’s final they tried a more conventional front-line, with Fernando Torres up front and Pedro providing some pace and incision on the wing.

The problem, though, is that they do not have a striker as good as Fernando Torres in 2008 or David Villa in 2010. They could stick with one of those two, or try Alvaro Negredo, or use Fabregas there again, but none of the ideas are perfect.

The next generation

The last few years have been so successful for Spain that there is a backlog developing of their best young players. The current players are so good that there is little case for change. But that means they have the two best midfielders in Europe last season – Juan Mata and Javi Martinez – sitting on the bench.

Those two are just 25 and have lots of time left but there are more behind them – 22-year-old Thiago Alcantara and 21-year-old Isco, both of whom would be very useful next summer but who are currently not one but two or three steps removed from the first team.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living