Spanish football team progressing though in transition mode
Spain, 6/1 with Coral to win Euro 2016, bowed out of the World Cup at the group stage last summer in Brazil as defending champions, after a disappointing showing, and head coach Vicente del Bosque was left with a daunting responsibility.
Decide on the future footballing identity of the national team and make it work. Their dominance dwindling, La Roja had surrendered their mantle to a new force; Germany, who had taken Spain’s ‘tiki taka’, and used it as an ingredient to create their own successful blend, adding power and pace.
Their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign has been progressive, winning three and losing just once, with Del Bosque having brought through more youth players. However, the trickiest task is fitting them all in. A midfield medley includes Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Isco, Sergio Busquets, Koke and Bruno Soriano have all featured and it seems there is still indecisiveness over the best selection.
And then there is which system they play. Going back to when they won successive major tournaments; Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, it seemed that a blueprint was in place for years to come, though Spain proved the adage that nothing stays the same forever.
Applying the 4-3-3 it was basically a combination of the Barcelona and Real Madrid starting XIs with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets behind David Villa, Cesc Fabregas and Silva. The front six cut teams apart and were telepathic in style as they dismantled Italy 4-0 in the climax of Euro 2012.
Euro 2012 final highlights
With the likes of Xavi and Iniesta ageing, the former having retired from Spain and the latter now 30, there is a changing of the guard taking place, as a number of contenders audition to step into their shoes. A likely, standout candidate would at least appear to be Atletico Madrid star Koke, who has played every game in the qualifying campaign so far.
The jury is out as to who joins him, with Isco having drawn comparisons to Iniesta, however Fabregas has shown this season with Chelsea that he is a cut above the rest.
Interestingly, although his Blues teammate Diego Costa has only featured in two qualifiers for Spain, he is the Premier League’s joint-top scorer with 19 goals. Instead, it is Valencia’s golden boy Paco Alcacer who has been preferred, scoring three in four.
Juan Mata has enjoyed a rise to form recently with Manchester United, and could find himself given a run in the side if he maintains his form. Pedro remains a Del Bosque favourite, with two goals so far, while there are big hopes over 19-year-old Barca youngster Munir El Haddadi.
Since his move to Juventus from Real Madrid, Alvaro Morata has been a revelation, scoring for fun and provides a genuine striking option, should Del Boque want to revert to a front two. A number nine very much in the Fernando Morientes mould, he would link up nicely with Alcacer and give Spain the option of playing with genuine wingers, such as Jesus Navas and even Cristian Tello, who is excelling on-loan at Porto from Barcelona.
A system that would make the most sense for them as they transition into their next side capable of challenging, would be a 4-1-4-1 utilising a rearguard of Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal, with Busquets anchoring behind Silva, Koke, Fabreags and Isco, supplementing Alcacer or Costa.
Once Del Bosque has found a blueprint that works, the players can be confident of lifting silverware again. The Under-21 side is littered with many heirs to Xavi and Iniesta, many of them graduates of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy.
Thiago Alcantara who made the switch to Bayern Munich, following former coach Pep Guardiola is an obvious talent, however, the 23-year-old is currently injured, though Sergi Roberto, Marc Bartra, El Haddadi, Sergi Samper (all Barca) and Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao) are all possible options over the next couple of years.
Malaga forward Juanmi, who has an abundance of potential, has just been called up for Spain’s next fixtures, after Costa pulled out because of injury and he is one to watch, while Getafe striker Alvaro Vazquez could yet get a call-up.
The future looks bright for Spain, if Del Bosque can implement another winning system.