Rafael Benitez

How Spain will torment England

Rafael Benitez

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Spain play
England today, and come into the match as world and European champions, continuing
to break all records and respected and admired throughout the football world.

To what do they owe this success? What has changed
in Spain to turn a team that had never won anything to one that cannot stop
winning?

To start with, for a long time, youth development
in Spanish football has had a structure which people like Iñaki Saez, Juan Sanisteban, Gines Melendez, Fernando Hierro (now at Malaga FC) and others knew how to adapt to
suit the Spanish nature.

Local
competitions, regional teams and then national squads produced boys who are constantly competing and it is widely known that youth coaches in Spain are very good at their job. These are key
factors in the continuity and success at all levels.

With regards to the current squad, since the
arrival of
Luis Aragones, they began to
play a short passing game and took care of the ball. As well, because they had
players like Xavi, Raul and David Villa they were gradually creating a style
based on possession while at the same time, with players like Puyol, Marchena
or Casillas, they were forming a very competitive squad.

The arrival of Vicente Del Bosque, a calm,
intelligent man, saw a continuity which with players like Andres Iniesta,
Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina, Sergio
Ramos, David Silva, Juan Mata or Victor Valdes produced a quality and mentality
necessary to maintain the competitive spirit but at the same time win.

Del Bosque is a man respected for his knowledge
and praised for his humane approach to dealing with players, which gets the
fans' backing.

He has also had the ability to continue the model
set by Luis Aragones. The tremendous quality of the Spanish players helps but
it is still difficult to stay at the top, as the best in Europe and the world.

My experience of Spanish players that I have coached
is that they are footballers who want to be picked for the national team
because they can do great things and win trophies. And they have, the Euros and
the World Cup came along one after the other. What more can you ask for?

In England, people are wondering how to stop the
Spanish, whether technical ability is more important than passion and physical
effort, whether you can play more direct against the Spanish or play possession
football like them...

The Champions League Final showed that the Barcelona style, similar to the Spanish
national team, was able to conquer Manchester United, Premier League
Champions. This has had the result of many teams trying to play like this.

Can the England team play like Spain? And more
importantly, should they? Should they adapt or should they play their own style
true to their own game?

Spain will use a 4-3-3 similar to Barcelona's
since they have eight of their players in the squad:

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Their main idea will be possession, long
transitions providing width which forces defenders to be more open and looking
for wall passes to penetrate when they can. If they don't find the gaps, they
have enough one against one ability to go past defenders in reduced spaces.

Given the quality and versatility of most of their
attacking players, they can switch positions without reducing the effectiveness
of the attack. In fact the opposite is true because the defenders have problems
adjusting to a different player all the time.

As we have said before, the full-backs will be
open and in advanced positions, taking advantage of the possession Spain have,
making the opposition defend deep and forcing them further away from the
Spanish goal making it more difficult to counter attack.

The closest players will also press after losing
the ball making counter attack even more difficult.

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At attacking set pieces, they are dangerous
because they have good players who deliver well, although at corners they
usually play short.

Defending set pieces, they use a mixed zonal/man
to man marking system and they can have problems at the back post.

As for England, they have to decide how they want
to play. Capello is a good coach with a lot of experience and he is fully aware
of the difficulties in this game. Despite it being a friendly, the Italian
coach knows he has to assemble a team, choose a style of play with an eye on
the Euros but at the same time win, or at least give a good account of
themselves against the European and world Champions.

There will be some concerns about the game but at
the same time it will be an exciting one and the English player is always
competitive and proud, so we should see the spectator being the winner. At
least that's my opinion.

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