Evolving Spain attack bad news for Euro 2012 foes
Spain's attack is evolving into a ruthless force again at the European Championship, and that spells bad news for opponents.
Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas have combined to score four of the defending champions' five goals in two games. Spain's attacking options were on display in the 4-0 win over Ireland on Thursday, after coach Vicente del Bosque was criticized for using six midfielders in the team's opening 1-1 draw against Italy.
Spain and Group C co-leader Croatia will meet Monday with Spain knowing it needs only a draw at the Arena Gdansk Stadium to reach the Euro 2012 quarterfinals. Both Spain and Croatia have four points, two more than Italy. Ireland has already been eliminated.
Now, Spain fans are wondering what formation Del Bosque will use against Croatia.
''(The debate) will go on, we can't do anything about that. But it's a good thing that playing with a No. 9 works,'' said Torres, who moved to third on Spain's all-time scoring list with his 30th goal. ''We've scored different kinds of goals and the great thing is Spain has very good players and a lot of options.''
Against Ireland, Spain's attack was constantly evolving after Torres' fourth-minute goal. That early strike unburdened Spain and its possession game was afforded extra space to get its slick passing game going.
Spain completed an astounding 779 passes and managed 26 shots as Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and David Silva found room in the center, while Xabi Alonso also joined in the attack after a more defensive role against the Italians.
After a hesitant start against Italy, Spain is finding its way and showing it has the players and systems to beat different opponents in different ways.
''We have a big squad with 23 players, all of them play in the starting lineup of their clubs. Fernando is one of the alternatives,'' Del Bosque said. ''We wanted to dominate on the pitch and we had (67) percent possession of the ball.''
David Villa's injury absence has forced much tinkering to Spain's squad, and although Del Bosque was calm and confident in his choices, not all of his players were pleased with the debate it had generated.
''With the national team there is never any patience, and if you don't win then things are bad. Only four years ago we hadn't won a thing,'' said defender Gerard Pique, whose newly implemented partnership with Sergio Ramos in the center of defense was improving. ''There is no patience, but we have to live with that.''
The World Cup winners do have to be vigilant about bookings against the Croatians with Torres, Alonso and fullbacks Alvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba all one yellow card away from suspension.
Paul Logothetis can be reached at: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP