Atletico Madrid striker Adrián Lopez’s introduction to international football couldn’t have gone any better as he scored his first goal for Spain, and won a penalty in the 2-0 victory over Serbia on Saturday night. He will have left manager Vicente del Bosque with plenty to ponder ahead of Euro 2012, with the former Real Madrid boss set to name his 23-man squad this week – and Barcelona striker David Villa will be absent. Lopez met Jesús Navas’ cross in the 64th minute before Branislav Ivanović tripped him in the area after David Silva’s through-ball – and Santi Cazorla stepped up to score the 74th-minute penalty.
Álvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado were utilised as the two strikers in an unconventional 4-4-2 system for the defending champions in their friendly against Serbia. But a deep lying Serbian defence thwarted the two strikers for long periods and created little in terms of chances for the duo. It highlighted why Spain would be wise to stick with their preferred formation of 4-5-1 for the tournament and a change back to their traditional tactic after the break helped Spain to victory. Lopez thrived in the lone striker role, aided by the vision of Navas, Silva and Santi Cazorla.
Spain were without Barcelona’s Copa del Rey heroes and as a result started the game without players such as Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández and Cesc Fàbregas, while runner-up Fernando Llorente was also unavailable. Del Bosque used this match to survey the depth of his squad as many of the players who began against Serbia are unlikely to start the first game of the European championship against Italy. Add to the midfield the Barcelona contingent, and Spain would surely have won by a lot more.
Spain enter the tournament without their influential centre-half Carles Puyol and although the makeshift defence wasn’t tested by Serbia whatsoever on Saturday night, it is a position of perceived weakness for opposing teams to exploit. Gerard Piqué hasn’t had a brilliant season for Barcelona and Iker Casillas has not been at his vintage best. With teams like Italy, Germany and the Netherlands seeking to take Spain’s crown, their defensive resolve needs to prove its worth prior to the tournament to fully assess whether they can retain their title.
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