'Our style is fine. We will stick to it,' says Alonso


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The Independent Football

Alone among his peers, David Silva was surprised. Even the Manchester City midfielder, though, is growing accustomed to the fate Spain are condemned to endure, one England illustrated so starkly in victory. Here, in microcosm, was what awaits the world and European champions in Poland and the Ukraine next summer: a succession of opponents fixated on frustration, challenging Vicente del Bosque's side to pick a way through.

"We were surprised at how defensive England were at home, but that is what is happening in every game we play now," Silva said. "That is how every team we face lines up against us. They get everyone behind the ball, very deep, and if they can get a goal, from a rebound or a set-piece, it complicates things for us."

Fabio Capello, of course, is not the first manager to attempt to stifle Spain, who his own captain, Frank Lampard, admits remain the best in the world; he is not even the first to do so and emerge victorious. Switzerland, under the charge of Ottmar Hitzfeld, even managed to win by the same scoreline in South Africa last summer, the last competitive game in which Spain tasted defeat.

That the Italian was prepared to acquiesce to England's reduced status in world football and instruct his team to destroy first, create later, under the baleful glare of an expectant Wembley, is a dangerous precedent for Del Bosque, tasked with turning his team into the first in history to win three successive international tournaments.

It is now not simply football's lesser lights who are prepared to play the role of underdogs in order to weather the Spanish storm; if England will do it, so too will France, Italy, Holland and the rest. If England can make it work, perhaps here is the blueprint to end Spain's golden age.

"The style is not going to change," Xabi Alonso said. "Most teams will play that way against us. We saw that in the World Cup. But it will not have a big impact on us. We will learn from this performance. We have an idea of how we want to play most games and we know that if we score first, most of the job is done. People respect us because they know our qualities so it is no surprise they try to defend deep. We have to accept it. Our style is fine. We are going to stick with it."

The success already attained by the tiki-taka style means there is no demand in Spain, as there would be in England, for a Plan B. Certainly, Del Bosque's players have no doubts whatsoever that quality will out, Cesc Fabregas, in particular, scornful in his analysis of England's approach and curious to see how effective Capello's side are when tasked with setting a tempo, dictating play, and taking charge of a game.

"We saw two very different styles of teams," the former Arsenal midfielder said. "One defensive, one trying to play football, trying to score goals. In the end, the one trying to score goals did not and the one not trying [to score goals] did. It was a weird game.

"Normally England do not play like that, when Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere are available, but unfortunately without a few players maybe it was an obligation to play like that.

"It is difficult to say who played well for them, because they were defending basically for the whole game. They had 10 men behind the ball and that makes it much easier for everyone because you are more solid and compact. We will see more when they play offensive football.

"You want teams to have a go at you and test you and see what happens. [But] we knew, especially after we saw the team they put in, that they were just going to defend. Even when they were winning, it was [Danny] Welbeck up front and everyone else defending.

"Nearly every team we play sets up like that and we qualified with maximum points. It is just in friendlies. Maybe sometimes we do not go with the same mentality, we change a lot of players and it is completely different. But hopefully we will be ready for the Euros. We won every game in qualifying. When we play important games, we always win at the moment. That makes us feel positive."