Tactical preview

Euro 2012 Tactics - Spain

ESPN's look at the plans of Spain this summer

Kevin Palmer and Nick Bidwell

Vicente del Bosque has a tough job on his hands© PA Photos

The Manager: Vicente del Bosque

As winning major championships every two years is all that counts as success for Spain, the challenge facing Del Bosque could not be more exacting.

The statistic that no international side has won three major championships in succession suggests the odds will be stacked against this former Real Madrid and Besiktas coach at Euro 2012, yet he is convinced his magical team are capable of re-writing the history books once more.

"Winning for a third time may be the toughest task yet, but it is one this team will relish," believes Del Bosque. "While the experience of succeeding in big tournaments is likely to be more important for us, we know that teams are now looking for ways to disrupt and challenge what we do.

"This is a generation of brilliance in Spain. As a coach, my job is to try and maximize potential of great players and for the last two tournaments, this team have been perfect. Our challenge is to repeat at Euro 2012. Clearly we are a favourite in the eyes of many, but others will believe their time has come. For me, Holland look to be the main threat to us this summer."

The Captain: Iker Casillas

They say goalkeepers cannot be successful team leaders, but Casillas has gone a long way to disproving that theory with club and country in the last few years.

The Real Madrid stopper has been in fine form once again this season and he always commands the respect of his team-mates and opponents. He recently became his nation's most capped international and has rarely had a bad game in a Spain career spanning 12 years.

Having lifted the European Championships and World Cup trophy as Spain skipper, Casillas's place in his nation's sporting folklore is secure. All he can do now is add to his legend.

The Formation

Spain only have one way to play and that involves passing their opponents into submission. It worked a treat at Euro 2008 and the last World Cup, but are the opposition starting to find a way to nullify Del Bosque's masters.

Defeats in friendly games ahead of Euro 2012 has raised the suspicion that defensive-minded teams, intent on halting the Spanish attacking armada, can frustrate and eventually overcome the reigning champions. Tragically, dour football has been proved to be a successful antidote to a more majestic form of the game, but winning is more important than grace at the highest level.

Del Bosque's 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation is designed to win games long before the opposition have got to grips with Spain's spellbinding passing skills. It will be fascinating to see if his team of 'Invincibles' can continue to dominate for a third straight tournament.

The Weak Spot

Fatigue may be an issue for several Euro 2012 coaches, with their star names struggling to extract a final ounce out of energy from their weary bodies after long seasons with their clubs, yet this issue may affect Spain more than most.

With most of Del Bosque's players involved in high profile domestic and European campaigns that continue until the final stages of competitions, the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, David Silva, Xavi and Xabi Alonso are heading into the finals looking tired. There are also doubts over their defence, with Barca duo Gerard Pique not always a first pick at club level and the absent Carles Puyol a desperate loss.

Injury Nightmare

In many ways, Spain have already lived through an injury nightmare in the last six months as leading marksman David Villa has been ruled out after breaking his leg in December, while natural replacement Fernando Torres has been in woeful form for much of the last 18 months at Chelsea.

It remains to be seen whether in-form Athletic Bilbao marksman Fernando Llorente or Valencia's Roberto Soldado could fill the void up front, but coach Del Bosque has certainly had plenty of time to weigh up this problem and can have no excuses if he has not found an answer for Euro 2012.

Meanwhile, absentee Carles Puyol will be replaced by Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos or Raul Albiol. Both have long been natural replacements for Puyol and the transition should happen smoothly.

The Young Gun - Juan Mata

The Spain squad is not flushed with youthful talent and that may be good news for Chelsea's Champions League-winning hero Mata, as his chance to shine on the international stage may not be far away. Barcelona's magnificent contingent have made it tough for the creative maestro to force his way into Del Bosque's starting line-up, yet he has shown his class as both a maker and taker of chances when opportunities have arrived. Two goals in three Euro 2012 qualifiers was a decent effort.

Still only 24, he has the experience and ability to be part of the Spanish national team set-up long after some of his World Cup-winning colleagues hang up their boots. Maybe Euro 2012 will give him a chance to show a glimpse into the future of the Spanish national team.

What they Say

“Spain are still the big favourites for Euro 2012. I like what I see from Germany and they are a team emerging as the biggest threat, but there is too much quality for Spain to fail. They look like a team who want to win more titles.” Fabio Cannavaro (Italy's 2006 World Cup winning captain)

The Verdict

Spain's individual brilliance will take them into the latter stages of Euro 2012, but a lack of freshness in some of their key men may mean a third straight title triumph is out of reach.

 

© ESPN

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