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Spain Eye Golden Swansong for Legend Iniesta in Russia | SWOT Analysis

When Andres Iniesta looks back at his World Cup winning goal in 2010, he talks about how the calmness of the moment. A clever back heel at the centre circle switched the angle before Cesc Fabregas played Iniesta through for Spanish football’s most memorable moment. What followed was boundless joy and priceless emotions as La Roja realised their potential.

Abhimanyu Sen | News18 Sports

Updated:June 8, 2018, 5:00 PM IST
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Spain Eye Golden Swansong for Legend Iniesta in Russia | SWOT Analysis
A file photo of Spain's World Cup squad. (Twitter/ Football_Tweet)
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When Andres Iniesta looks back at his World Cup winning goal in 2010, he talks about how the calmness of the moment. A clever back heel at the centre circle switched the angle before Cesc Fabregas played Iniesta through for Spanish football’s most memorable moment. What followed was boundless joy and priceless emotions as La Roja realised their potential.

Cut to 2018 and the Spain football team are coming off two disappointing outings on the big stage, but importantly, Julen Lopetegui has transformed the Spanish Armada – La Roja is not to be messed with.

With veteran heads like Sergio Ramos, Iniesta and David Silva forming the backbone, Spain came through qualifying unscathed, with a thrashing of Italy at the Santiago Bernabeu being their highlight. The core of the team that failed so miserably in 2014 in Brazil and then two years later fared slightly better only in France, turned over a leaf after the Euros before pulling up their socks to remind the fraternity about the dangers of facing up to the brand of tiki-taka.

After Lopetegui, a comparatively lesser figure than Vicente del Bosque and Luis Aragones, took his seat in the dugout Spain began looking closer to their champion-like self than ever before.

In Brazil, Robin van Persie almost single-handedly knocked the stuffing out of Spain, and this time, unless there is a Ramos-esque moment of rashness Spain is likely to tango.

STRENGTHS

Spain, in the recent past, has been a dominant force in club football with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla namely. That apart, individually, Spanish players like Silva, Diego Costa and de Gea have also done their game no harm. The common factor is being comfortable on the ball; a style synonymous with the 2010 world champions. Without batting an eyelid, expect more of the same.

Most of the focus will be spread out between Iniesta, Isco, Thiago, Silva and Sergio Busquets in midfield along with Marco Asensio and Costa in attack. Central defenders Pique and Ramos are equally adept with the ball at their feet. That is traditionally Spain, who have also managed to polish their off the ball skills; winning it back as soon as possible.

Fortunately for Ramos and Pique, if they are to have a lapse in concentration or get outdone by some brilliance whilst defending, they do have the assurance of a certain David de Gea. The Manchester United number 1 who rarely, thankfully for Spain, has a bad day at work is one of the safest goal-keepers in the modern game.

La Roja’s reliance on playing the possession game and the effect is well documented, whilst the ability to mix experience and youthful flair in the act will be crucial for progress.

WEAKNESSES

The lack of striker who fits the tiki-taka style, much like David Villa, could trouble the two time European champions in Russia. Diego Costa is not the most prolific, whilst Asensio, Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno lack the continued exposure to the big stage.

A loss of form post injury to Alvaro Morata means Lopetegui’s most vulnerable position is in the final third. Whilst 36 goals in 10 qualification matches do point at a different story, scoring has been a daunting hurdle if and when the chips are down.

Over the years, Spain has boasted of some of the world’s best footballers, but it does not paper over the lack a plan other than possession football. The veterans in Ramos, Silva and Iniesta have felt the disappointment in big tournaments with their nation before. It is this experience that will need to ensure they keep calm when their backs are to the wall.

OPPORTUNITY

Placed in Group B with neighbours and 2016 European champions Portugal, Iran and Morocco, La Roja are likely to come through unscathed. Their first major test is likely to be in the quarter-finals; however a possible round of 16 clash against Egypt would once again reopen Ramos vs Mohamed Salah debate.

Sergio Ramos and co are likely to have the time to get themselves going in time for the business end of the tournament, which would then form the perfect platform for the veterans to put in that almighty effort as they aim to end on a high.

THREAT

A team which lines up with Sergio Ramos, Pique, Busquets and Jordi Alba – cards, discipline and passion (temper) are always going to play a big role. The troika is well known to play hard and the leader of the pack, as demonstrated previously, to put it very tamely can hurt his team’s cause very badly.

It isn’t a problem just in defense; the combative and bullish forward Diego Costa is known to have a short fuse too.

Indiscipline is the side of the coin Julen Lopetegui does not want to see because a domino effect from there on in will be self-destructive for La Roja.

It would be a rather unhappy way to begin the end for Andres Iniesta, the man synonymous with Spain’s most loved footballing moment.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Kepa (Athletic Bilbao);

Defenders: Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Nacho (all Real Madrid), Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique (both Barcelona), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Odriozola (Real Sociedad);

Midfield: Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta (both Barcelona) Saúl, Koke (both Atletico), Thiago (Bayern) Silva (Manchester City), Isco, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vázquez (all Real Madrid);

Forward: Iago Aspas (Celta), Rodrigo (Valencia), Diego Costa (Atletico).

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| Edited by: Madhav Agarwal
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