Spain left with questions after opening Euro draw
Publicly, Spain feels like it’s on course to defend its European
Championship title. Privately, the team is grappling with questions
after opening the tournament with a draw against Italy.
The absence of David Villa has left the world champion’s attack
exposed as Fernando Torres struggled, failing to convert a number
of chances in Sunday’s 1-1 draw.
While Cesc Fabregas equalized after being handed a starting spot
in attack, Spain’s normally vibrant midfielders didn’t press
forward until after Antonio di Natale’s opening goal.
In Spain, the spotlight was on Torres and whether coach Vicente
del Bosque made the correct decision with his starting lineup, and
what formation would be chosen for Thursday’s Group C match against
Spain held 60 percent of possession but was largely outplayed in
the first half when it failed to create much danger near the
Del Bosque’s insertion of Fabregas failed to surprise Italy, and
former Spain coach Luis Aragones said the team’s lack of a
traditional striker inside the box allowed its opponents to repel
the Spanish attacks.
”With Torres on the field and (Jesus) Navas on one wing and
(Jordi) Alba on the other side, the Italian defense wasn’t as
comfortable as in the first half, when they cleared the ball with
ease,” Aragones wrote in Spanish sports daily Marca on Monday.
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, who attended the game, agreed
”Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc’s touch passing isn’t good if it
doesn’t create any danger in (Gianluigi) Buffon’s area,” Mourinho
said on Al-Jazeera. ”The team looked sterile without a
Del Bosque offered no hint at whether he would alter his
formation against the Irish with strikers Fernando Llorente and
Alvaro Negredo both ready to step in with Torres struggling.
Llorente has been bothered by some lower body injuries following a
long club season with Athletic Bilbao, which he helped guide to two
cup finals with 29 goals in all competitions.
Spain also criticized the PGE Arena field for being too dry,
although neither players nor Del Bosque presented any official
complaint after Saturday’s training session.
But the world champions will likely have to contend with such
conditions for all its group games in Gdansk, with some of the
team’s normally outstanding players looking slow on the ball
following another long club season.
The field may be the least of its worries with the attack
clearly missing Villa, the country’s all-time leading scorer who at
the top of the scoring chart at both Euro 2008 and the 2010 World
Cup. Villa’s cutting runs and pace always stretched the defense,
something Del Bosque’s system didn’t do until Navas replaced David
Silva following Fabregas’ goal.
While Del Bosque looked frustrated at times along the sideline,
the 61-year-old coach certainly didn’t sound it afterward.
”The plan didn’t turn out so bad,” Del Bosque said. ”I don’t
leave here frustrated. We made a tremendous effort.”
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