Vicente Del Bosque: Xabi Alonso & Sergio Busquets are not cavemen

"We're not arrogant enough to not even think about the opposition. The best teams in Europe are here."

vicente del bosque
Vicente el Bosque's Spain take on France on Saturday Photo: Steindy

vicente del bosque

Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque gives an exclusive interview to two AS journalists, Javier G. Matallanas and Joaquín Maroto, ahead of Spain’s Euro 2012 quarter-final with France.

Spain is the leader in the tournament in terms of statistics: they have scored the most goals, conceded the least goals, had the most shots. Why is there so much doubt surrounding the team?

I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because the journalists expect too much. There are other interesting statistics, like the amount of official games we have played without losing. We’ve only lost two official matches, against the USA in the Confederations Cup and against Switzerland in the World Cup. That’s quite a feat, playing at a level as high as this. But everyone wants us to play stupendous football.

Some fans are starting to doubt whether tiqui-taca is the best way of playing…

We’ve played this brand of football for a long time and we’re going to continue with it, because we believe in it and we have to continue with it. Of course, our rivals know how we play, and they know how to play against it. But we know how to beat teams that try and make things difficult for us, we’ve got enough players in the squad to overcome any obstacles that come our way.

Another concern is the ‘doble pivote’ [playing two holding midfielders – Alonso and Busquets – together]. Many fans remember the semi-final with Russia and want the team to play like that again. Then again, we played well against Germany in the World Cup semi-final with two holding midfielders…

There are other games where we’ve also played well with that system. If we played with just one holding midfielder, would be weaker defensively? Perhaps, I don’t know. But I also don’t think it’s a defensive formation, both are talented and creative players, they’re not cavemen. They start the play, they create changes, they are intelligent, they lend a hand when our full backs go forward, they’re both capable of scoring goals. In fact, Alonso is the third top scorer since I’ve been in charge.

Your most controversial decisions, (Cesc as a striker against Italy, Torres starting against Ireland, Navas coming off the bench against Croatia) haven’t gone so badly. They all scored. Do you understand the criticism, then?

There are always discussions and debates in football, that’s logical. But we have a lot of options that we can experiment with. We’ve got the players to play a number of systems and you choose which one works best and then you try another one.

Why did you play a ‘false 9’ against Italy?

Because Pirlo and De Rossi dictate play very well and start Italy’s attacks so we wanted to prevent them from having the ball.

So you change tactics according to the opposition?

Yes, and why not? We’re not arrogant enough to not even think about the opposition. If that was the case we wouldn’t even watch the opposition’s games. Of course, we concentrate on our own play, but there are things you need to consider about the opposition and how to counteract them. As I’ve said, this is the European Championships, the best teams in Europe are here and we have to study every detail.

Italy might reach the final. If we play them again, will you employ the same tactics as you did in the first game?

Let’s not talk about a situation which may not arise. That would be thinking for the sake of thinking and talking for the sake of talking.

But would you play in the same way during a knock out game and a group game?

I think so. They are all cup games, if we hadn’t beaten Ireland and Croatia we would have been knocked out. Almost every game in a major tournament is like a final. After we lost to Switzerland in the World Cup we had to win every game.

Spain have never beaten France in a competitive game. It’s the same situation we had with Italy in 2008.

Let’s hope we can put an end to this era. We beat them 2-0 in the friendly in Paris.

The fiercest criticism has not come from the press, but from social networks, where everyone thinks they are a manager. A lot of people don’t think Arbeloa fits into the team very well, they’d rather have Ramos playing right back, as he had a great World Cup in that position.

Sergio Ramos has been playing at centre-back because he’s spent the whole season playing in that position for his club and we’ve got a good centre-back pairing in Ramos and Pique. They are both good players, they can even play in central midfield. They bring the ball out from the back well, they’re quick, they’re good in the air. We’ve played against Ireland and Croatia, who have players who are two-metres tall, and we didn’t have any problems in the air. Arbeloa had an excellent season for his club. I can’t think of many better defenders, and he also offers a lot going forward.

Are Spain a nouveau riche team?

Football in this country has grown a lot. But we have to value what we have. Fortunately, we are now rich. A pauper won’t be poor all his life. You can always improve.

AS English

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