Spain’s domination of world football will go down as one of the sport’s finest achievements. The subsequent downfall of their squad and the destruction of the country’s own ‘tika taka’ format of play will be remembered as an ignominy they are desperate to forget.
Vicente del Bosque, in his attempts to re-establish Spain as a continental superpower, has made bold calls – tactic-wise and player-wise – as the holders travel to France for the competition.
The strikers that were long admired and feared for the previous decade are now gone, the speed and accuracy of Fernando Torres now replaced with Juventus frontman Álvaro Morata, paired with evergreen Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz. 35-year-old Aduriz’ aerial and physical presence in front of goal has seen him oust Chelsea’s Diego Costa from the squad. Costa appears to have been another victim of ‘second season syndrome’, failing to build on a terrific first season at Stamford Bridge, his year contextualised by regular skirmishes and on field tensions with opposition defenders as he regularly sought out and manipulated their frustrations for his own ends, evidently forgetting the goalscoring aspect of his job.
The dropping of Juan Mata from the squad is something of an understandable move by del Bosque. In an area of the field in which the competition has scarcely been higher, Mata’s cause has not been helped by Manchester United playing him on the wing. Instead, the playmaking role in misfiled will be afforded to Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas and flanked by Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, and his Catalan compatriot Sergio Busquets anchoring the midfield.
On paper, Spain still have a side to be feared, but tika taka football suffered a severe hit to its dominance, not least with the 5-1 destruction Spain incurred at the hands of the Netherlands two years ago. Del Bosque must go to a plan B; abandoning the long used 4-5-1 in favour of a 4-3-3 formation, with Silva and Nolito playing wide support for Aduriz in the middle.
One final development is the story surrounding David de Gea. Recent rumours indicate he has been involved in a sex scandal may have hit the focus levels of the camp. Although Pedro was quick to extinguish such suggestions of the team being affected, it may leave del Bosque with a conundrum as he prepares for the opener against the Czech Republic
Spain may have been crushed their defence of the World Cup in Brazil. But del Bosque is eager to show his troops are back witha vengeance.