Spain are now just three wins away from history, as their progression through to the quarter finals keeps them on track to becoming the first nation to win back-to-back European Championships.
Despite qualifying top of their group with seven points from a possible nine and a plus five goal-difference, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the pre-competition favourites.
Vicente Del Bosque’s side could only manage a draw in their opening fixture with Italy, having to come from behind in their striker-less formation – something which raised more than a few eyebrows in footballing circles.
Things were all a little more routine when they faced a poor Republic of Ireland side four days later in Gdansk.
Fernando Torres installed himself back into the starting line-up in place of Cesc Fabregas, and also installed himself as bookmakers favourite for golden boot, bagging two goals as Spain ran out 4-0 winnersand dumped Ireland out of the competition.
With confidence high following such a comfortable win against the Irish, it was a surprise when La Roja made hard work of a spirited Croatia side, who, on another day, could have found themselves in the quarter finals at expense of the defending champions.
Of course we are reminded time and time again that the quality of true champions is to be able to win without playing your best football, something that Spain will, and have, admitted to in their first three games in Poland.
In France, La Selección face a tough opponent, despite their lacklustre performance against Sweden in their last game, which ensured they finished second in the group behind England.
With an attacking trio of Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri, Spain will be looking to do what they did to Ireland and keep the ball away from their opposition with a high possession game. Attack really is the best form defence for Del Bosque’s men.
Should Spain see off Les Bleus, they face a potential semi-final tie with either Portugal or the Czech Republic.
Cesc Fabregas. Questions were asked when Spain took to the field without a recognised striker for their opening group match against Italy, but it was Fabregas, the man who was pencilled in as a ‘false nine’ who scored the equalising goal, and saved the champions blushes.
Despite being benched in favour of Fernando Torres for the remaining two group games, Fabregas has still provided the Spanish with an extra little bit of sparkle when required.
He marked his arrival against Ireland with a thunderous strike across Shay Given’s goal , before bailing his country out once more when his delicate chip set Andres Iniesta free to play in Jesus Navas for Spain’s late winner against Croatia.
Tactics. Spain may have qualified from a tough group undefeated, but Del Bosque’s tactics have been put under huge scrutiny by the media.
It may be a results business, but if Del Bosque continues to field midfielder’s in place of his four strikers who are left watching from the sidelines, cracks in Spain’s seemingly sparkling team spirit may start to
(Original post: http://sportsbyte.sunderland.ac.uk/?p=15535)