Spain's form in friendly matches causing concern

BY foxsports • November 16, 2011

While Spain's record in qualifying for the 2012 European Championship was perfect, the world champions are refusing to panic despite being unable to emulate that form in friendlies.

Spain salvaged a last-minute 2-2 draw at 62nd-ranked Costa Rica on Tuesday, three days after losing 1-0 to England at Wembley in another friendly.

Whether it's a lack of motivation or draining travel plans, the European champions have won only four of 10 friendlies - losing four times - since its World Cup triumph.

''They were clearly superior to us (in the first half). We cannot disguise the reality of it,'' coach Vicente del Bosque said before the team boarded its sixth trans-Atlantic flight since August 2010. ''We are better than we were before (these two games). The perspective going forward looks good, there are positive aspects and hopefully we don't lose sight of those.''

Spain striker David Villa followed teammate David Silva's 83rd-minute goal with a stoppage-time equalizer to avoid ''another disaster,'' as newspaper ABC put it on Wednesday.

Newspaper Marca's front page read: ''Vincent, We Have a Problem,'' while El Periodico called it ''Another Slip-up.''

Striker Fernando Torres conceded the team's form is down but isn't too perturbed.

''You can't take too many positives from this last series, that's the truth,'' Torres said. ''But we know well the keys to what has helped us achieve success over these past years.''

While Spain won all eight group games to reach next year's European Championship in style, subsequent friendly losses to Argentina, Portugal, Italy and England demonstrates the team isn't invincible.

Spain has only played one of its past 10 friendlies at home, with multiple trips to both South America and Central America on top of a voyage to the United States. El Pais reported the Spanish federation was paid ?2 million ($2.7 million) for the Costa Rica match.

''When things are going well everything turns out beautifully. You have to organize things correctly to keep on winning,'' Del Bosque's predecessor, Luis Aragones, told The Associated Press by telephone. ''All results are important. In reality, friendlies don't exist. Every game is an official one, and no one approaches these as friendlies.''

A downturn in form in friendlies following a World Cup triumph isn't so unusual, either.

Brazil won four, drew four and lost two of 10 friendlies following its 2002 World Cup win, with eight being played outside its borders. Italy won three and lost three of seven friendlies after its 2006 World Cup victory.

Torres' struggles with the national team since scoring the winning goal in the 1-0 win over Germany in the Euro 2008 final haven't abated, however, and defender Carles Puyol looked out of form against Costa Rica.

Spain's style of play may also becoming slightly predictable.

''They need an imaginative formula that forces the rival coach to come up with some alternative game plan if he suspects something different,'' former Spain international and Real Madrid great Jose Miguel ''Michel'' Gonzalez wrote in ABC.

Spain has one more friendly - in February at home - before Del Bosque announces his squad for the June 8-July 1 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Torres believes he'll be in the squad despite competition from established strikers like Alvaro Negredo and emerging talents Thiago Alcantara and Iker Muniain.

''I'm happy to be here, and the coach spoke with me individually in our last call-up when we talked about a lot of things,'' Torres said. ''He reiterated his confidence in me and told me that approximately this will be the group that goes to the Euros.''

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