Different kit, different players but same emphatic result for Del Bosque's Spain team
MirrorFootball has teamed up with some of the blogosphere's best new writers to bring you even more great football reads every single day.
Wednesday is La Liga day, and here's www.spanishfootball.info 's David Cartlidge with his take on the week's big issues in Spain.
The shirt colour was different, but the style remained true to the colours Spain have worn so proudly in the last few years.
Vicente Del Bosque watched on as his troops, dressed in their new sky blue away shirt, engineered a 5-0 demolition of Venezuela on Wednesday night. The match proved that whatever changes he makes, the team continues to find cohesion and results.
Having said that, Spain’s recent record in friendlies had hardly been emphatic so this game held at Malaga’s La Rosaleda stadium was met with slight scepticism.
The naysayers needn’t have worried though, as Spain produced one of their best performances since winning the World Cup in South Africa almost two years ago.
Missing, was key man Xavi, the usual orchestrator behind Spain’s success, but his absence didn't seem to have too much of an effect. Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, and David Silva all started, with Iniesta and Silva especially bamboozling Venezuela for much of the game. Iniesta swept home the ball calmly for the opener, but it was the second and third goals which thrilled.
An exquisite team move saw 38 passes completed, the highlight being a give and go involving Fabregas and Silva, before the Manchester City man drove the ball home after receiving a back heel pass from the former Arsenal hero. Some 38 passes and Fernando Llorente was the only outfield player not to touch the ball.
The third was similar, a quick exchange of passes involving several players, before Roberto Soldado, introduced at half-time, flicked the ball home. He grabbed another minutes later, and you could almost hear a crash as Fernando Torres threw his TV remote at the screen.
In just eight minutes, Soldado had matched Torres' international goal tally for the last 18 months. Valencia’s striker wasn’t finished though, and despite missing a penalty he completed a fine hat-trick. It was a wonderful show of Spain’s ability, and despite the opposition not being the strongest, the desire was there from Del Bosque’s men to put on a show, and their weaving movement in the final third, and defence to attack transition, was a joy to watch.
It was also a showing of Spain’s attacking prowess. Torres left out, David Villa and Alvaro Negredo injured, while Llorente was substituted. Still, they found someone who had that clinical touch, an extra option in depth.
Del Bosque could even afford to leave Juan Mata on the bench, free to crack jokes with his teammates and enjoy the show. More exciting was the introduction of Iker Muniain who won his first cap for Spain, at 19 years old. Muniain is seen as one of the brightest hopes in Spanish football along with Barcelona’s Thiago, and just three years ago Athletic Club de Bilbao’s teenager was featuring at the U-17 World Cup - a swift rise to prominence indeed.
Xavi made an appearance later on, as did the gifted Santi Cazorla, as Spain switched shifts in midfield.
In defence meanwhile, the previously problematic left-back position now looks one of the strongest areas of the team. Jordi Alba, who has had a fantastic season at Valencia, worked the channel and supported the attack superbly, and it was he who managed to assist club mate Soldado on his hat-trick goal.
Alba showed great desire to work for the team and although Spain aren’t short of attacking options, he provides a much needed outlet in wide areas when games can become compact. He cuts in superbly, but also goes outside well, and causes a multitude of problems for opposing defences. What he needs now is to test himself against a more resolute defence than the Venezuelans provided.
Del Bosque was delighted with what he saw, and said “the objectives were all completed” after the game. Indeed they were, and with the likes of Alba, Muniain, and Soldado only just arriving on the international scene, it leaves him with food for thought when it comes to selecting an XI for the European Championships.
The biggest problem for the coach will be just which combination to select – but what a nice problem to have.