When Andres Iniesta smashed the winner past Martin Stekelenburg on the 11th of July 2010 at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg in South Africa, Spain had achieved something that they had never achieved before in years of footballing history. For the first time in history, Spain won the World Cup, two years after their famous triumph at the European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. They are now the defending champions of both trophies. So after achieving everything there is to, what direction can Spain head in, to cement their status as one of the finest sides in the history of the game?
Perhaps it goes without saying, that if Spain manage to defend either one of these titles, they may arguably become the greatest side in the history of International football. The Brazilian side of the 1960s and the famous Magical Magyars of the 1950s are widely recognized as two of the best sides to ever play international level football. Of course there are also the Dutch sides of the 1970s, the French side a decade ago and the West Germany side in the early 70s. But, if Spain defends one of their titles, there’s a possibility that they may supersede these sides to become the greatest, given the current conditions and the extreme odds a team must surmount to win a trophy on the international stage.
But, it is not going to be an easy task even for a country where there is no shortage of world class players. In fact, there’s so much talent in Spain that a Spanish B and a Spanish C side are not too far-fetched. Spain’s embarrassment of riches is most evident in the fact that world class players like Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, Pepe Reina, Fernando Llorente, Raul Albiol etc often start from the bench. Such is the sheer competition for a spot in the squad and such is their depth. To make matters harder for the up-and-comers, not many first team players are coming close to ending their careers, with the exception of perhaps, Puyol and Capdevilla.
Still, there are various factors that can contribute to their downfall. The main factor that can hinder them from winning another trophy is motivation. Most of the current Spanish players have won everything there’s to be won at both club and country level. It’s not easy for a team, which has won everything to motivate themselves to win again and again. Ask Les Blues and the Azurri about this explanation and they’ll be infuriated at the thought of their disastrous 2002 and 2010 WCs respectively. Hence, Spain has to be careful if they are to not suffer the same fate as these two teams did.
Spanish Football – No Surprises Here
One can easily conclude that Spain was much more convincing and dominant at the Euros in 2008 compared to their recent form at the World Cup. One contributing dynamic to this is undoubtedly the way their opponents started reading their game plan – Possession Football. At the Euros, very few teams (read Italy) knew how to stop the Spanish game. But at the World Cup, most teams knew that a “park-the-bus” strategy had a healthy chance of coming away with a draw, if they “parked-the-bus” and counter-attacked efficiently, they stood a decent chance of winning the game. Most of the teams adopted this strategy in the hope they could pull off a “Switzerland”. Some teams like Paraguay and eventual runners-up Holland even came close to breaking Spanish hearts, but ultimately fell short. Spain was clearly struggling to score goals without a Plan B in their philosophy. That’s exactly what the World Champions will be looking to do – work on a Plan B. If successful, they can be unstoppable. In fact, Vicente Del Bosque has every intention of making his Spanish side a relentless one. In recent games, the Furia Roja have shifted the dimension of their game to a balance between possession football and wing play.
Fernando Llorente is being used as a target man to aim at, for Ramos, Capdevilla, Navas, and Cazorla to send in crosses to him so that he can head them home. This is slowly turning out to be a recipe for success and will definitely play a huge role in defining Spain’s chances in future competitions and their chances of winning it.
Left Back – No left overs?
The left back position was a cause for concern for Spain in the World Cup as Capdevilla was identified as a potential weakness before the tournament. But the experienced Villarreal man was solid both in attack and in defence. He had to come through tests like marking Alexis Sanchez (the talented Chilean), Cristiano Ronaldo, Arjen Robben and he passed all of them in flying colors. But, the Catalan is almost at the end of his career, and will possibly retire in a couple of years. Although Spain have been producing world class talents all over the pitch, the left back slot will be bereft of true talent once Capdevilla departs. If Puerta hadn’t tragically passed away, Spain’s wing back position would have been safe in the hands of Ramos and Puerta. But, now the Spaniards have to find someone who can fill the void which Capdevilla will undoubtedly leave on his retirement.
Álvaro Arbeloa can be an option, but he’s traditionally a right back and is in his late twenties. Álvaro Domínguez of Atletico Madrid (youth team), currently playing for the Spanish U21 side can be a good option, and he has been impressive for his club so far. A couple of years down the lane, presuming he will be available and at the top of his game, he will have got enough experience to don the red shirt. Or, we may see Vicente Del Bosque come up with yet another twist in the tale. Whatever be the case, Spain should try to find a solution to this potential problem in the next couple of years if they have ambitions of adding another star to that red shirt.
Complacency and luck may play their part, but the first is something Vicente Del Bosque is sure to be on the watch out for. Previously, at Real Madrid, he took the Galacticos to four Champions League semifinals and won two of them. He is not a coach who gets carried away with success and neither does he allow his players to get carried away with it. As for the second factor, who’s to say Lady Luck will not cease to smile on the Furia Roja? The European Champions have started their title defence strongly by winning all the three games in their group. But, it is to be seen if one of the finest current sides in football will go on to cement their status as the greatest side ever.