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'Cheeky' pupil can teach Spain

Published: Sunday 24 June 2012, 10.27CET
Spain have set the standard in international football in recent years, but Graham Hunter wonders whether the reigning European champions could learn from those chasing them.
by Graham Hunter
from Gniewino
Published: Sunday 24 June 2012, 10.27CET

'Cheeky' pupil can teach Spain

Spain have set the standard in international football in recent years, but Graham Hunter wonders whether the reigning European champions could learn from those chasing them.

When Xavi Hernández ran the rule over Spain's opposition just before UEFA EURO 2012 began, he praised Germany's possession-based attacking flair by saying: "Everyone's trying to copy our style now ... it's terrific."

That there are things to be learned and duplicated from Spain's seductive approach to football was further highlighted when Vicente del Bosque's side shook off the shackles of France's containing strategy in Donetsk – creating five on-target chances to their opponents' one, and scoring two goals which stemmed from the pace and adventure of Andrés Iniesta, Jordi Alba and Pedro Rodríguez.

But, and here I'm going to edge forward cautiously, is there now something Spain could learn from the Germans?

It is with great care that I even gently offer some advice to the Marquis Del Bosque. However, it was impressive and intelligent when Joachim Löw chose to change a winning team against Greece. His replacement players Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus each scored. Germany played with verve and energy and those left out now have fewer game-time minutes burdening tired legs and minds.

Against France, Spain kept rigidly to their credo – win the ball, keep the ball, use it to attack. But there were some errors of communication when key passes were dispatched, one or two moments when possession was given away in the most rare of styles for Spain and, until Pedro was introduced, a lack of zip and pace.

©Getty Images

Will we see Del Bosque's cheeky side?

Del Bosque has made an art of studiously sticking to core ideas and only moderating subtly when it comes to tactical or personnel alterations. He's the model of Kipling's "if you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs ... ".

Even so, perhaps there's an opportunity to recreate Löw's tactic that "we had to be unpredictable against Greece, because I felt they would be ready for us. It is good to be cheeky like that from time to time."

One of the things I most like about Del Bosque is that he lets me be 'cheeky' to him and he gives it right back. Having interviewed him early in this tournament and then handed over to my colleague Dani Huerta for the second chat, Del Bosque commented to me: "I see you're on the bench now."

Perhaps it's time for the Marquis to be 'cheeky' and address the fact that Spain have two days' less rest than Portugal before their semi-final on Wednesday. Cheeky enough to give a start to Pedro and perhaps one or other of the Fernandos, Llorente and and Torres, up front?

Last updated: 27/06/12 11.42CET

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