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Spain look to up the tempo against Germany
June 28, 2008 08:24 IST
Spain have enthralled fans at Euro 2008 [Images] with their ambitious brand of high-class football, but they will need to be at their very best to draw the sting from a powerful Germany [Images] side in Sunday's final.
There are two different faces to the current Spain team.
Version one is where they stroke the ball patiently around the midfield but get bogged down in over-elaborate build-up play, fail to supply their front men with a quick ball and allow opposition defences to sit back and defend in numbers.
Version two is where they manage to inject some pace on the ball, disrupt the opposition back four by constant interchanges of position in midfield and then hit their rivals with a killer through-ball or a razor-sharp break.
The mark two Spain was on display against Russia [Images] in the torrential rain at the Ernst Happel stadium on Thursday, illuminating the stadium as much as the bolts of lightning cracking across the Vienna skies.
Spain gave a breathtaking exhibition of high-tempo football that had the ultra-fit Russians gasping for breath just minutes into the second half.
Although they got the breakthrough when Xavi fired home in the 50th minute, Spain refused to sit back and defend their lead, but instead cranked up the pressure another notch.
Russia could not cope and cracked under that pressure to concede two more well-worked goals from Daniel Guiza and David Silva before the end for a convincing 3-0 win.
On Sunday they will need to play with the same sort of intensity if their nimble midfielders are to create problems for the powerful German back four.
The difficulty for coach Luis Aragones in previous matches has been the impressive form of strikers David Villa [Images] and Fernando Torres. Their displays meant he had to leave one of his multi-talented midfielders on the bench, invariably Cesc Fabregas.
Ironically, the injury to leading scorer Villa has helped solve Spain's midfield conundrum as it now looks almost certain that Aragones will opt to play Fabregas alongside Xavi, Silva and Andres Iniesta, while Torres will be asked to plough a lonely furrow up front.
If things work well, Torres will be accompanied by at least one of the midfielders when Spain go on the attack. If the plan backfires he will be surrounded and isolated.
The key lies in whether Fabregas can provide the zest and momentum to get the midfield playing at its dizzying best.
Torres has been given the thankless task of trying to tease open opposition defences by running himself into the ground and may give way to Guiza in the second half.
Spain will hope to minimise any German threat by starving them of the ball, but when their opponents are on the attack the tireless Marcos Senna will provide the first line of defence in midfield.
If all else fails they have the brilliant Iker Casillas in goal. The Real Madrid [Images] keeper has had little to do for much of the tournament, but has been superb when pressed into action.
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008