Spain have successfully reached the semi-finals of Euro 2012, but it wasn’t without a hiccup. Ok, the Irelandand France games were as easy as a one square Sudoku but Italy and Croatia both caused the Spanish some problems. Here’s our guide on how to tame La Roja.
Don’t concede early
Ireland did it, France did it and look what happened. Both conceded early goals, had to chase the game and were picked off with ease. Italy and Croatia, meanwhile, kept it tight, kept it disciplined early doors didn’t go chasing the ball and kept Spain at bay for long periods, frustrating them. Easier said than done, but not allowing Spain their own way could open the door a touch. They take so long to do anything, a 20 minute game could make things much closer.
Overload their right
If there is a weak link in this Spanish side, then it is the defensive capabilities of Alvaro Arbeloa. He’s not terribly popular among supporters, so if you attack down that side, get the crowd on his back, then Del Bosquemay be forced to change his plans or risk conceding a cheap goal. Now, do Portugal have any decent attacking wide players? That Ronaldo chap is meant to be alright isn’t he?
Ronaldo's pace could cause Spain some worries
Keep a surprise or two up your sleeve
Slavan Bilic nearly achieved the impossible when he brought on impact players Jelavic, Eduardo and Perisicwith 25 minutes or so to go. This changed the Croatian shape, gave the Spaniards something new to think about and could made them look decidedly uncomfortable. Likewise, when Italy brought on the guile of Di Natale, they scored. France just didn’t have players willing to make an impact tonight, but the likes ofQuaresma, Oliveira or (fingers crossed) Oxlade-Chamberlain could unsettle the champions.
Get them turning
Italy got their goal in the opening match by getting Spain’s centre-backs turning, thanks to a cracking ball fromPirlo to Di Natale. If someone like Meireles can get his range right, the pace of Ronaldo in behind could cause some serious damage.
Hold the ball
Spain are an exhausting team to play against. They pass, they move, they pass again. Then, when you eventually get the ball, they hunt you down in packs until you give it back to them and the whole process starts again. Why not try passing the ball about to tire them out? Reduce the time they have to probe away at your defences. They pack the midfield so tightly, one ball through to a pacy winger can carve them open, but going too soon could be disastrous. If Portugal play it about a bit, find Nani and get bodies in the box, a surprise could well be on the cards.