Match in a Sentence
The two previous World Champions provided us the best game of the tournament thus far, in which we saw a great tactical battle, sublime technique, and two moments of sheer brilliance.
- Prandelli’s Italian side started the game in a 3-5-2 formation that featured Daniele De Rossi at CB and Mario Balotelli/ Antonio Cassano leading the line. This formation worked in their favour especially in the midfield as for most part of the game Thiago Motta and Andrea Pirlo were outstanding. The Italians looked calm in possession and were impressive in the first half where they could’ve scored a goal or two.
- Del Bosque’s side went with what I assumed was some unorthodox form of a 4-2-3-1. Surprisingly, Del Bosque selected Cesc Fabregas to lead the line as a false nine rather than Fernando Torres or Llorente who are your typical CF. Many questioned it, but I for one thought it was genius, as Fabregas was supposed to drift into the midfield and pull the Italian defence out of position. Unfortunately, Fabregas is no Lionel Messi and De Rossi who was arguably the man of the match seemed comfortable with Spain playing like this.
- The problem with this Spain team is they lack natural width. Teams tend to defend against them with eight or nine players, and when they can’t find an opening they are ineffective. With wide players David Silva and Andres Iniesta drifting inside, that leaves their only wide men to be left fullback Jordi Alba. In result Spain were poor in the first half, like they were ever so often in South Africa. Their passing was too slow, they were unable to penetrate the Italian midfield and they lacked vertical movement.
- The game came to life in the second half in which Spain came out strong, but what will be remembered is Balotelli. Balotelli skipped past Sergio Ramos putting him on a breakaway in which he somehow allowed Ramos to recover and cleanly take the ball away from him. Balotelli was a frustrating figure throughout the game, and seemed to never find his rhythm. He was taken off seconds after that squandered opportunity for Antonio Di Natale. Balotelli, who I felt should be no more than an impact sub, might rue that miss as he might not get another chance to impress Prandelli. World Class strikers thrive for one on one chances and Balotelli showed his worth under the pressure.
- Prandelli looked a genius four minutes later as Andrea Pirlo danced past Sergio Busquets and played in a world class ball to the sub Di Natale who made no mistake and slotted it into the goal.
- Spain are champions for a reason and showed us why four minutes later when Iniesta found Silva, who played a wonderful through ball to Fabregas who made no mistake and just like that the game was tied again.
- I’ve stated this many times and although I admire David Silva, Jesus Navas should get the nod over him for the well being of Spain. Like the China game, today when Navas and Torres came on Spain were better. Whether its Navas or Pedro, they provide that natural width and give Xavi & Iniesta more space to orchestrate from the midfield. Navas also tore Giaccherini to shreds and without Ramos bombing forward on that flank they really find themselves to be far to narrow when Navas isn’t on the pitch.
- As for Fernando Torres, when he came on he really gave that Italian back three problems. De Rossi, who was immense, looked unsettled throughout Torres time on the pitch. The easy thing to do would be to bash Torres for missing two chances that he could’ve done better on but his inclusion in the game nearly saw Spain steal the game from the Italians. We need to be true to ourselves and realize we may never see the World Class Fernando Torres ever again due to injuries, but he is still a supreme talent and on his day can win you a game or a European title. Flash back to 08 where he struggled but won Spain the European championship.
- In the final quarter of the game Spain seemed to have taken control as the Italians tired. Torres linked well with Xavi, Navas, and Iniesta. Iniesta and Xavi were also at their best as the space Silva was occupying was free for them to operate. This leaves many Spanish fans wondering if Del Bosque will go with Fabregas as a false nine against Ireland or will he start Torres? Also will David Silva be pushed to the bench like he was 2 years ago? In place for possibly Jesus Navas or Pedro Rodriguez who provide Spain with pace and natural width, something they currently lack going forward.
- Prandelli and his men will be pleased with this result and now have to win out there two games to see them through to the quarter finals. They have a few questions going forward regarding who will start up front, and can they continue to play at this level throughout the tournament. Nonetheless it was an Italian performance I expected and don’t be surprised if we see this team on July 1st in Kiev playing for the right to be European champions.
- Daniele De Rossi
- Andres Iniesta
- Andrea Pirlo