Pedro gives Del Bosque extra edge
Thursday 08 July 2010
Knowing precisely how Spain are going to play, endlessly pushing the ball around between their technically gifted midfielders, does not necessarily make them any easier to defend against. Germany knew exactly what to expect, and for a long time were able to restrict them to mainly long-range shooting form Xabi Alonso – always a sign that the attacking side are failing to find a way through.
The key to Spain's game is movement as much as passing. Having made one of their seemingly endless passes, a player does not stand still but moves into position to receive again. Although the passing tends to be short it is sometimes varied, particularly with the long diagonal ball from Alonso from the left of midfield or Gerard Pique from centre half, sending a longer pass to the overlapping full-backs Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevila.
They appeared to have targeted Germany's full-backs and found some joy against Jerome Boateng, who was reduced to one or two crude fouls and was then replaced, to his displeasure, by Michael Jansen. The more experienced captain Philipp Lahm on the German right was harder to get past. When a cross came in, the centre-backs Per Mertesacker and Arne Friedrich dealt with them well and Manuel Neuer again looked one of the best goalkeepers in a tournament that has not been kind to them.
Spain had moved David Villa, the tournament's most prolific marksman, into the centre of the attack and given him a lively and inventive partner in Pedro, one of six Barcelona players in the side (Villa will become a seventh). His movement was exceptional, flitting along the line, from the inside-right position to outside-left, depending where the equally fluent Andres Iniesta – a club colleague whose play he knows well – happened to be.
Germany's best hope was to win the ball quickly and launch a counter- attack of the type that caught England out so comprehensively for their third and fourth goals, when Fabio Capello's team were recklessly throwing men forward. As is often the case with a team possessing pace, control and intelligence – as Arsenal have often proved – it can even be dangerous to win a corner against them. Send too many men forward, including your main defenders as England did, and they can hit on the break, as Bastian Schweinsteiger almost did.
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