Confederations Cup 2013: Four lessons as Spain beat Italy

Confederations Cup 2013: Tom Wellman looks at four lessons as Spain beat Italy on penalties

Spain
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Italy
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Italians show improvement but suffer a repeat of penalty heartache

The game went the distance – as it did in Euro 2008 – and it was Spain who came out victorious once again. Italy looked to exact revenge for their defeat in the European championships in 2008 and 2012, and even for the Under-21 loss only last week, but fell short in sudden death in the penalty shootout. The game showed how far the Italians had come since that harrowing 4-0 loss in Kiev last year as they dominated the game and caused Spain many problems in 90 minutes. Cesare Prandelli’s tactical knowledge halted Spain’s controlling intent and his side should have gone ahead in the first half. Instead they couldn’t take their chances, and it is Spain who progress to challenge Brazil on their own patch on Sunday to try and claim all of Fifa’s major titles at once.

Defensive concerns for Spain

Similar to the Nigeria game, Spain struggled against a side intent on causing some unfamiliar grief to their defence. Italy attacked down the wings when full-backs Álvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba bombed forward and it proved effective as Spain endured an early onslaught. They were outnumbered on shots on target as Christian Maggio, Alberto Gilardino and Daniele De Rossi all missed great chances and then Emanuele Giaccherini smashed the post in extra-time. Spanish marking was non-existent for long spells of the game as Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos were culpable for unusual errors. Iker Casillas was sharp in the Spanish goal and was the major factor in keeping his side in the game until the last of the 120 minutes on a sweaty night by the equator. They’ll have to be on their guard against Neymar, Fred and Hulk – though this could make for a more open game and play into Spain’s hands. One thing is certain; it will be an intriguing and enthralling encounter between two dominant sides.

Little variation between Spanish strikers

Spain showed little in front of goal against Italy, though lone striker Fernando Torres can hardly be blamed for his country’s dwindling threat. Giorgio Chiellini marshalled the Chelsea striker smartly throughout the match and quashed the Spanish attacks frequently on a frustrating evening for La Roja. Italy played with three defenders and still remained comfortable against the world’s best team but of Spain’s three frontmen to choose from, none of them could arguably offer much more than Torres. David Villa and Roberto Soldado are both similar to Torres and born finishers but neither brings any new attributes to the side. But for Fernando Llorente and perhaps Álvaro Negredo, Spain don’t have different options to select up front and could well have used one of them. With Jesus Navas exploiting space on the wings, a physical presence and threat from a set-piece could have made the game more comfortable for Spain.

Italian hunger more evident than Spain’s

The Fortaleza heat could have been an issue but for Spain but they lacked their usual verve and enthusiasm. For the past few years, Spain have educated the world, bringing the game into the 21st century but after so long their level of desire seems to have dropped. In contrast, Italy, intent on exacting revenge for defeat in last year’s Euro 2012 final, refused to let the humidity and possession-hungry tactics of their opponents faze them. Whether it was the well-organised, resolute wall Spain were faced with or the combined fatigue of a gruelling season, they did not enjoy playing football against Italy, as they did so emphatically almost a year ago in Kiev. Perhaps it is time to introduce new faces to the midfield from the beginning as Spain brightened up when Navas and Juan Mata entered the fray.

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