Tuesday, July 6, 2010

La Furia Roja Unhealthy Reliance On "The Kid" Villa

Spain's second 1-0 victory allowed them to squeeze past Paraguay in the World Cup quarterfinal. Once again, El Guaje pulled La Furia Roja through the finishing line. Also for the second match running, Spain dominated possession (60%) over the opposition. They must be excited at the prospect of an open semifinal encounter against the counter-attacking Germans. Well, Del Bosque will have to think otherwise as the Germans also defend in numbers, just ask England and Argentina.

Like in the Portugal match, the Barcelona connection again proved effective as Iniesta-Pedro-Villa put paid to La Albirroja's dream of being first time semifinalist. Paraguay's exit is due to them not scoring enough goals. The loss of Salvador Cabanas was a total blow to Gerardo Martino and that firepower could not complement the excellent defensive solidity.

Due to the lack of goals from Santa Cruz and Barrios, Martino took a gamble and rang in the new striking cavalry - Oscar Cardozo, Nelson Valdez and Jonathan Santana. The trio worked well with each other, having Paraguay's best spell in the first half, with a Valdez goal disallowed.

This match was amazing in the sense that we had three penalties and yet all three had no bearing on the match result. Two missed penalty in quick succession on either end of the pitch livened up the game and instilled some fire into the match. The ref in overlooking Justo Villar's foul on Fabregas, proved that the men in black lack the "cojones" to make pivotal game changing calls.

Without playing particularly well, and without any ability to change the game tempo, Spain have stumbled into the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup. Praise, therefore has to be given to the winning mentality that Del Bosque has developed. Legendary Spaniard, Fernando Hierro singled out the key difference between Del Bosque's La Roja and previous ones,
"What has changed is the mentality. After 44 years, Spain are now the European champions. This is showing now in this tournament with the team reaching the semi-final. The team now has momentum, but what the win in 2008 has done is give the team more confidence and they have matured as well."
Spain have been lucky, thus far, and this luck could run out against the Germans. The tiki-taka football of Spain is stuttering at best, Torres is clearly match-fit, Llorente should be worth a gamble in Spain's biggest game this year. I quite like the idea of Villa as an inside left forward, he has scored four of his five goals from there already, against Honduras, Chile, Portugal and Paraguay. Phillip Lahm will have to curb his attacking instinct to keep Villa quiet, thereby cancelling each other's potency out. With La Furia Roja's heavy reliance on Villa's goals, that will undoubtedly play into German game plan hence the need for Llorente rather than the off-form Torres.

Spain hasn't got a great head to head against Die Mannschaft in World Cup matches. Of the three meetings, La Furia Roja have lost all and conceded five goals. None, however holds more meaning than tomorrow's semi final meeting. It's building up into a classic match up, Spain will be dominating possession and probing  patiently while Germany will be waiting to pounce on any loose ball in midfield to launch those swift counter attacks that we have seen all tournament.

Head to Head Record
1994    Chicago     21/06/1994    GER    1:1 (0:1)    ESP     Group matches
1982    Madrid     02/07/1982    FRG    2:1 (0:0)    ESP     Second round
1966    Birmingham     20/07/1966    FRG    2:1 (1:1)    ESP     Group matches

More importantly, Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the Euro 2008 final and Jogi Loew must definitely be thinking of exacting revenge on Del Bosque this time round. Spain's weakness down the flanks is well known and Germany will look to exploit that with their fast breaks.

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