Spain Flex Muscles, Show Off Scary Amount of Depth in Rout of Tahiti

Michael Cummings@MikeCummings37World Football Lead WriterJune 20, 2013

This one wasn't about the contest, wasn't about the final score and wasn't even necessarily about the players on the pitch.

If those are the tidbits you're after, you'll be happy to know that Spain defeated Tahiti 10-0 on Thursday in Group B of the Confederations Cup at the Maracana Stadium. The match played out exactly how the scoreline would suggest. Spain scored early, Fernando Torres and David Villa lit up the scoreboard often, and the world champions waltzed their way to one of the most lopsided victories you're ever likely to see in a FIFA-sanctioned senior tournament.

But this game wasn't really about that. This game had more to do with who wasn't on the pitch in Rio.

For his starting XI, Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque made 10 changes to the team that defeated Uruguay 2-1 on Sunday. Of the 11 starters from Spain's Confederations Cup opener, only central defender Sergio Ramos remained.

Iker Casillas, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Pedro and Roberto Soldado all moved from the starting XI to the bench. Pepe Reina, Nacho Monreal, Raul Albiol, Cesar Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez, David Silva, Santi Cazorla, Villa, Torres and Juan Mata took their places.

Listing all those names is not just an attempt to be thorough. In this case, it's a litany of the best the club game has to offer, an invocation of the most righteous names from the holiest of football's holy shrines.

And that goes for both sets of players.

Villa is Spain's all-time leading scorer. Torres won the Golden Boot at Euro 2012 (yes, really). Xavi and Iniesta have been camping out in the Ballon d'Or shortlist for years. From front to back, both squads are packed with absurd amounts of flair, skill and savvy.

In senior international football, such a concentration of talent just doesn't happen. At least it wouldn't if the world were fair. And such tinkering—though that's probably not a strong enough word—would probably make even Rafa Benitez's head explode.

That Thursday's opponent came into the match ranked 137 places below Spain in the latest FIFA rankings told only part of the story. Sure, it was only Tahiti, and resting your regulars against overmatched opposition is only to be expected. But for Del Bosque and Spain, something else is at work here.

"We have players who deserve to play, because they are very good," Del Bosque said, per ESPN. "They are starters for their clubs, and not used to sitting on the bench. We are going to give them the affection that is very important for the relationships and good atmosphere altogether."

The second XI, in other words, is good enough to be the first XI for most countries in the world. But this is Spain, the defending World Cup winners and back-to-back European champions, and no matter which players were playing, Tahiti faced a literally impossible task.

"We are highly realistic," Tahiti coach Eddy Etaeta said before Thursday's match, per Sports Illustrated. "It's impossible for us to win against Spain. Our objective is to try to score, or not to be scored against, for half an hour. But maybe we can score one goal and against Spain, even if it's 15 or 20 against one.

"It's impossible, yes quite impossible."

Forget the cliches. With Spain, "you never know" is just an empty phrase. Etaeta is right, and it's an outlook that has surely been shared by several of Spain's opponents in recent years. And with such depth in the squad, it's entirely possible that Iberian dominance could continue for years to come.

Brazil impressed Wednesday at the Confederations Cup, and as hosts of the World Cup next year, the Selecao will rank among the favorites. Germany, too, have played attractive football in recent months, and with two clubs in this year's UEFA Champions League final, the country's collective footballing stock is rising rapidly.

But for now, Spain are still a notch above. For proof, look not only to their B-team's utter dismantling of Tahiti, but also to this month's triumph in the Under-21 European Championship.

Spain claimed that trophy, too, defeating Italy 4-2 in Tuesday's final to win the competition for the second straight time. And much like the senior squad, the kids boast plenty of dazzling talent, especially attackers like Thiago Alcantara, Isco and Alvaro Morata and holding midfielder Asier Illarramendi.

That's not an exhaustive list, of course, but like Spain's senior squad, there's only so much room for everybody. As has been a common theme in recent years, facing Spain is a scary prospect in the international game.