Vicente Del Bosque tries to keep Spain's doubters at bay at Euro 2012

 

Gdansk

All around Spain's training base there are banners reminding Vicente del Bosque's team that history does not win tournaments. Instead, the slogans state that "concentration", "talent" and even "humility" will be the key ingredients if Spain are to win a third major championship in a row.

Doubt does not win much and, for the first time, doubt has started to seep into the Spanish camp. For the 53 minutes between Antonio Cassano putting Italy ahead against Ireland on Monday night and Jesus Navas thumping home the winner from a yard out, the world and European champions were a goal away from elimination – and Croatia had more than one chance to score it.

Polls conducted as the Spanish fans streamed down the steps of the PGE Arena in Gdansk for the last time, bound for the less-familiar streets of Donetsk, were clear. They wanted Del Bosque to stop the experiment of playing without a recognised striker, which he had employed for most of the opening fixture against Italy and for the final half-hour against Croatia.

"Everybody feels they can be a coach but I would ask them to relax," said Andres Iniesta, whose role in breaking the deadlock in Gdansk was pivotal. "All teams have difficult moments and Spain is no exception.

"We were more tired than in previous matches. There were moments of quality in our game but there were also moments of doubt because we knew that one goal from Croatia could eliminate us."

Like Iniesta's club, Barcelona, Spain suffer from the perception that every game has to feature goals created by a series of dazzling passes, finished off with geometric precision. Sometimes, you yearn for them to lump it up to Fernando Llorente, Athletic Bilbao's big No 9, and see if he is as effective as he was against Manchester United.

Like Arsène Wenger, who was watching from the stands in Gdansk, Del Bosque is determined to defend the purity of his football. "We should have faith in the style of play that has taken us this far," said the Spain manager yesterday. "We have plenty of resources to deal with teams who concentrate only on defending. If we had a bad match, Croatia had a worse one.

"People expect too much. A few years ago Spain were not well rated but now everyone expects everything. David Silva and Iniesta need to move into spaces and against Croatia the spaces were very small and, although some of the passes went astray, they did so by millimetres. People may lose faith in us but the most important thing is that we have faith in ourselves."

Nevertheless, as he walked through the corridors of the PGE Arena and into club management, Slaven Bilic believed he should have been preparing for a quarter-final in Donetsk.

"People are going crazy about Spain but the world moves so fast that we forget about the detail," said the now former manager of Croatia. "It is going to be very hard for them to win this tournament. Italy have shown that and so have we.

"When they don't play with a striker, they keep the ball more and they come at you from the flanks – and then your defenders just have to cover their own zone. When they play a striker, you have to defend your box and the wings. Against us, it was mainly [their goalkeeper] Iker Casillas who saved them. They looked vulnerable."

Certainly, Spain seem vulnerable to strangulation. Italy and Croatia both flooded their midfield and there was a photo doing the rounds of the Spanish camp that showed Iniesta, alone, surrounded by five members of the Italian team. Iniesta was likened to the Japanese cartoon footballer, Oliver Atom. "Perhaps not Oliver Atom," Iniesta smiled softly. "This will be hard and if, God willing, we get to the 2014 World Cup, it will be even harder.

"This team has a perception that it has to win every game 3-0. I'd actually prefer to be in this situation than in previous tournaments when we were packing our bags after one bad game. But the fact is that, when you are champions, it is very difficult to raise your game to another level."

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world