Teams /  Spain  / Spain 
Spain have 12,805 Fans
Spain show Scotland why they are too good to have a World Cup hangover
Andy Hunter at Hampden Park - 3 years ago

Responsibility rests heavily on the head that wears the crown but Spain are gradually coming to terms with the expectation on a world champion. Lesser sides would have lost nerve in the face of a thoroughly unexpected Scotland fightback at Hampden Park but Vicente del Bosque's side reacted as their mantle demands – by remaining true to their ideals and the conviction that their style will bring reward. Yet again they were proved correct.

The casual defending that enabled Craig Levein's team to recover from two goals down promoted the argument of a World Cup hangover in this Spanish team. The visitors were certainly guilty of complacency after David Villa became the record goalscorer for his country with his 45th international goal and Andrés Iniesta slotted home a merited second. But it was their response to adversity that impressed most of all. Only when the substitute Fernando Llorente shattered Scotland with 11 minutes remaining did the first chant of "Campeones" resonate from the away contingent and, for all Hampden's pride, this was an outcome they could not dispute.

The Premier League's connection to the Spanish national team has been on the wane for some time, Xabi Alonso and Gerard Piqué having swapped Anfield and Old Trafford for the Camp Nou and Bernabéu respectively, and was accelerated at Hampden by the absence of the injured Cesc Fábregas and Fernando Torres. There is no greater illustration of Spain's riches – and the lack of homegrown talent at the summit of England's top tier – than the acknowledgement that two players who would grace any Premier League side when fit and on form would have been unlikely starters here anyhow. Yet it was an instructive night for followers of Manchester City and Liverpool.

South Africa provided a bittersweet experience for David Silva as he faded out of Del Bosque's starting XI while Spain's performances improved. His summer move from Valencia to Manchester City has not justified a £24m transfer fee but nor has it been the calamity it has been prematurely painted in some quarters either. Silva's mercurial talent and slender frame deserve patience as he adjusts to the transfer and his contribution against Scotland, while erratic, was a welcome riposte to the accusation he cannot handle the physicality of the British game.

The City midfielder, deployed wide on the right by Del Bosque, flourished in his individual contest with Rangers' Steven Whittaker while his intuitive understanding with the rampaging Sergio Ramos provided a constant outlet for the visitors to exploit. It was also notable how Spain's commitment to speed and numbers in attack, in contrast to Roberto Mancini's more considered approach at Eastlands, benefited Silva immensely. The winger sliced through the Scotland defence on one slalom run, picked out Villa with an inviting chip from the byline after another and forced a low save from Allan McGregor following a flowing one-touch move between five Spain players that illustrated "tiki-taka" – to borrow Ian Holloway's description of their style –to perfection. On the down side he squandered a clear opening when Xabi Alonso lofted a glorious chip over Stephen McManus and was fortunate to escape a booking when he flicked a foot out at Graham Dorrans after the ball had gone.

That Alonso pass, incidentally, was just one of several stunning executions of the art by Spain's No14. For Liverpool supporters now forced to endure a Christian Poulsen-Lucas Leiva midfield axis where once Alonso and Javier Mascherano trod, the Real Madrid man's performance would have induced a tear in the eye, even in one made of glass. There should also be unease at Anfield over José Reina losing his customary reserve goalkeeper's place behind Iker Casillas to Victor Valdés of Barcelona, the Liverpool No1 suffering perhaps as a result of a costly mistake against Argentina last month but also uncharacteristic form at club level this season.

With Xavi out injured, the onus was on Alonso to supply his forward line and he excelled at the task. The Basque set an imperious tone with his first touch, a trademark crossfield pass that dropped on Silva's toes over 60 yards away, and arched a sublime ball around McManus only for Villa to slice over with McGregor to beat. He finally received the end product his distribution deserved when releasing Villa inside the Scotland area in the build-up to Spain's second goal through Iniesta.

Spain's ability and willingness to adapt is another key foundation to their recent successes. Iniesta started on the left, switched at one stage to the right and ended the game floating in his familiar central role, while Ramos resembled an orthodox winger at times as the visitors strove to regain the lead. The loss of a two-goal cushion, however, was grist to the mill of those in Spain who have cited complacency in the champions since that ultimate triumph in July. But Llorente provided the killer riposte.

This is comment. GNM does not necessarily support the views expressed.

Share your thoughts
Sign in to comment

Latest News, Blogs & Podcasts

The Guardian - 13 hours ago
Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina are some of the high-profile omissions from the latest Spain squad as the manager, Vicente del Bosque, named five uncapped players for the friendly against France and the Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia ...
Football Espana - 17 hours ago
Vicente Del Bosque has called up a host of new faces to the Spain squad to play France and Macedonia. Among the players included are Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, Athletic Bilbao's Mikel San Jose and Ander Iturraspe and Valencia's Paco Alcacer.
The Guardian - 2 days ago
Xabi Alonso has announced his retirement from international football. The 32-year-old Real Madrid midfielder was a member of the Spain squads that won the World Cup in 2010 and European Championships in 2008 and 2012 during a sustained period of ...
When Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque announces his Spain squad this Friday, he will do so without naming Xabi Alonso amongst the players, after the Real Madrid midfielder announced his international retirement on Wednesday, with an emotional ...
Football Espana - 19 hours ago
Miguel Angel Moya could get one of the goalkeeper's spots, with Iker Casillas and David De Gea, and Raul Garcia may also feature. Inigo Martinez, Gerard Deulofeu and Dani Carjaval are also contenders for places. Think you know your Spanish football?
Football Espana - 2 days ago
Xabi Alonso has confirmed his retirement from international football, ending an 11-year career with Spain. The Real Madrid midfielder announced this afternoon that he was calling time on his La Roja stint, finishing on 114 caps and 16 goals. The 32 ...
The Guardian - 6 days ago
Or will Real Madrid triumph and so restore their order to Spanish football, the one that sees them and Barcelona fighting it out alone up top, with the others battling beneath them. Simeone thinks the latter is the most likely scenario. But he said so ...
Tribal Football - 1 day ago
"I feel very happy out here. And I'm enjoying my football, which is the most important thing." One minor drawback for Bale is Real's eagerness to help him feel at home. He wants to improve his Spanish, but Real's staff are too accommodating! He ...
- 20 hours ago
The summer transfer window is now reaching its climax and managers are working hard to make some last minute additions to their squad, so we'll bring you all the latest news and gossip. Today, Arsenal and Chelsea miss out on Radamel Falcao. Colombia ...
Football Espana - 2 weeks ago
Behind Spain and Brazil are Switzerland and France, who round out the top 10, while World Cup revelations Costa Rica have reached a highest-ever placing of 15th. Think you know your Spanish football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win ...

Latest Photo Galleries

Holland v Spain: the best pictures of the World Cup final
4 years ago
The best pictures of the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa, including the build-up, the match itself and the aftermath ...
World Cup 2010: Germany v Spain in pictures
4 years ago
A look at the best pictures from Durban Stadium where a place in the World Cup final against Holland is at stake
World Cup 2010: Argentina v Germany and Paraguay v Spain
4 years ago
All the best images from the remaining quarter-finals - in Port Elizabeth where Germany take on Argentina and in Johannesburg where Paraguay take on Spain
Kick4Life - changing lives through football