If Vicente Del Bosque wanted to be a conservative coach, the Spaniard could simply watch the DVD of his side's demolition of Italy in the Euro 2012 final and decide to do absolutely nothing new for the next World Cup.
After all, none of the footballers involved in the tie are clutching Zimmer frames, and all currently have most of their faculties in place. The national coach knows deep down that when Spain are in their tippiest, toppiest form, there is no side in the world that can touch them.
The 4-0 Italian job repeated a finely honed technique from La Seleccion in recent tournaments: They put in the minimum effort during the qualification rounds, scaring fans to death in the process, and then brought out the big guns at the last possible moment.
However, Del Bosque is a shrewd manager and knows that he will probably have to introduce a few new tricks to his team in Brazil to counter the South American sides on their own turf, as well as an increasingly impressive Germany.
This is how the moustache-sporting maestro might well give the reigning World and European Champions an upgrade.
Although Del Bosque likes to remain loyal to tried-and-trusted performers, that philosophy may have to be ditched if the exile of Iker Casillas continues at Real Madrid. At the moment, Diego Lopez has the No. 1 slot and shows no sign of letting that opportunity go. This would surely see Victor Valdes starting between the sticks for Spain, a goalkeeper whom many see as superior to the Spain captain in terms of shot-stopping and distribution.
Barring injury, it would be no surprise to see a familiar back four of Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba lining up in Brazil. Perhaps the only doubt lingers over the right-back berth, with Arbeloa needing to improve on some lousy form for club and country at the end of last season. The defender is a little lucky, though, in that there is no clear candidate knocking at the door to push him out of the starting lineup.
This is where some tweaking may well take place, but an awful lot depends on the form and fitness of the veteran duo of Xabi Alonso and Xavi Hernandez. Both are suffering from years of wear and tear, which could see Cesc Fabregas given a role in the centre of the park rather than drifting about as a false nine, which has been the Barca man’s main responsibility of late.
Should both Spanish stalwarts be out of action—Sergio Busquets is a no-brainer in the holding position—then Santi Cazorla or a deep-lying David Silva could be given the chance to pull some strings. That is, of course, if Del Bosque does not pull back Andres Iniesta from an advanced role in Spain’s attack. These changes could see La Roja playing in a more direct and less dithering style next summer in South America.
The offensive line is the most difficult tactical area of all to predict and the zone that could undergo the most changes. Three fine strikers, Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado and Fernando Llorente, left La Liga to go to foreign climes over the summer, and all will be hoping that debut seasons with their respective clubs will be enough to persuade Del Bosque to restore the old-fashioned No. 9 slot to Spain’s starting lineup.
Finding the right partners for these strikers is going to be a heck of headache for Del Bosque, with Pedro, Silva, Jesus Navas, Iniesta, David Villa, Fabregas and Juan Mata all contenders. However, the smart money might well be on Isco continuing a brilliant start to his season with Real Madrid and forcing his way into the reckoning, on the grounds that the playmaker offers assists and a fine finish—something that has been a little lacking in Spain’s attacking play.
Spain's World Cup Starting Lineup: Valdes; Arbeloa, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Cesc, Xavi, Busquets; Iniesta, Soldado, Pedro.
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