Juande Ramos: Torres is still not fit but Iniesta can carry our hopes for now
The Spanish Angle: There is no doubt that Iniesta must come back. He injects something unique and whatever the coach decides, he will be in the team
Friday 25 June 2010
Already we have England playing Germany in the last 16 and after tonight's matches we could have Spain v Brazil as well. I have no doubt that Spain can beat Chile – but if the Swiss thrash the weakest team in the group, Honduras, then they will come out on top and we will meet the Brazilians a bit earlier than expected.
The problem for Spain is that this could be too early for Fernando Torres to be at his absolute best – but despite the worries about the Liverpool striker, I am sure he will time his return to full fitness just right. And there is another return that fills me with confidence, that of Andres Iniesta.
He's had a thigh injury all season, but he will start tonight. I don't know if Vicente del Bosque will leave out Jesus Navas or David Silva to make way, but there is no doubt that Iniesta must come back. I said last week that it will be "the team" and not any one player who will be the star if Spain win the tournament, and I stand by that. But Iniesta injects something unique and I am sure whatever permutation the coach decides on, the Barcelona midfielder will be part of the starting XI.
Despite not having him in our last game we got back on track with a convincing win. The big difference between the first match and the second game? Luck. We played just as well against Switzerland but could not take our chances, but that changed against Honduras.
Torres missed his opportunities but that does not worry me. I thought he worked so hard for the team. You have to bear in mind that it was his first start since his April operation.
People have talked a lot about his misses, but he was strong and quick enough to get into the scoring positions in the first place, which is the most important thing. Sometimes when a striker is coming back that, fraction of sharpness – that is missing at first – shows itself in the finishing. He can only get back to 100 per cent by playing matches and if he does that in the next five games reaching his absolute peak in the final on 11 July then his timing will have been perfect.
I remember that Fabio Capello said when he took over as England manager that the most important positions in international football were centre forward and goalkeeper. A goalkeeping mistake or a striker's miss can determine whether a game is won or lost. England's first draw proved him right with the mistake from Green and Emile Heskey's miss, but I never doubted England would come through.
The Slovenia win lifts an enormous weight off of the players' shoulders. Now anything is possible for England.
Some say you might now have to beat Germany, Argentina, Spain and Brazil to win the tournament but that brings me back to my original point – if the Swiss win by more than us tonight then they could top the group. That means we would face Brazil next and you would have one less big rival to worry about!
Torres has scored 0.32 goals per game for Spain, compared to 0.7 goals per game for Liverpool.
1. Fabiano's anarchic personality can thrive in English football
Luis Fabiano has hit form and now has to be one of the favourites to finish top scorer. He played for me at Seville but it was a difficult time for him because he was still adapting after arriving from Brazil. Would he adapt to a move to England? I think he would because he is such a good player but he would need the right manager. He has a sort of anarchic personality – it is what makes him a great player but it can also make him a challenge to coach. If you can get him right mentally then you have a fabulous striker... or El Fabuloso, as they call him in Seville.
2. Maradona's experience makes him perfect for Argentina
The ease with which Diego Maradona has guided Argentina to the last 16 has surprised some people, but not me. People have spoken a lot about how he was not an experienced coach but Argentina have such good players they don't really need to be coached. What they need is a leader who they feel is one of them and who has experienced World Cup football – which makes Diego perfect for the job.
3. Coaches must focus on results before entertainment
It is easy to criticise the teams who have played defensively and I understand the desire for the World Cup to be a great spectacle from the first kick to the last but you have to remember that as professionals the coach has a responsibility to get the best out of his available resources, and if that means playing defensively then so be it. No country tells its players: "Yes, go and have fun. Who cares if you lose 6-0?" It might please the neutrals but if you play open football and get thrashed you have to go back home as a national embarrassment. No one wants that.
4. Sanchez shines brightly among the rarely seen talents
One of the fascinating things about the World Cup is getting a look at players you rarely see. Alexis Sanchez, the Chile striker, caught my eye again against the Swiss this week. He played well in their opener against Honduras and it will be interesting to see how he gets on against Spain today.
5. It's time for me to get on my bike
It isn't just the England team that are feeling cooped up. I've hired a bike in Cape Town so I can get some exercise when I'm not in the studio. This morning the plan is to ride out on the Chapman's Peak drive outside the city. I'm promised spectacular views, but the main benefit is to clear my head before the game. I'm not saying the England side need exercise, but let's hope their new surroundings in Port Elizabeth help them shed their fears.
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