Confederations Cup 2013: Five talking points as Spain beat Uruguay

Confederations Cup 2013: Tom Wellman looks back at some of the talking points from Spain's victory over Uruguay

Spain
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Uruguay
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Spain sweep past Uruguay and begin a tournament in style

Unlike in the previous two tournaments, Spain began the Confederations Cup in scintillating form, knocking aside Uruguay with ease. It has been common for teams to “park the bus” against Spain in recent years and to see the reigning world champions increase their intensity as the competition progresses. But Spain showed their class from the first minute on Sunday night. They kept 78 per cent possession in a one-sided first half in which they scored two goals through Pedro and Roberto Soldado. Cesc Fàbregas hit the post and Gerard Pique had a close-range shot saved as Spain turned the screw and searched for more goals. The midfield showed touches of class at frequent intervals and pressed their opponents tirelessly whenever they lost possession. It was a performance that proved why Spain have been so successful in recent years and an ominous sign that they seek to continue their superiority.

Soldado preferred up front but Pedro is Spain’s number one forward

Spain decided to waive their unique 4-6-0 formation on Sunday, instead preferring Valencia forward Soldado as their lone striker, a tactic that succeeded as he scored Spain’s second with a neat finish. It was obvious why Spain opted to field a striker as Uruguay had Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez to capitalise on anything around the penalty area and Spain wanted to match the pair with similar potency. Selecting Soldado also allowed Spain to switch to their ‘Plan B’ should things go awry. Pedro has excelled in the past year with the national team and he started on the wing, but due to his versatility, is able to play through the middle too. This would allow Spain to change to the 4-6-0 shape with ease by bringing Soldado off and giving Pedro a free role. However, there was never any need to resort to such tactics as it was so routine for Spain. Both Soldado and Pedro managed to score too which will only add to manager Vicente del Bosque’s pleasant selection dilemma.

Draws in qualification have served Spain well

Drawing 1-1 with both France and Finland in qualification was awkward for Spain as it set up a must-win return leg with les Bleus. In both, games Spain took the lead but were pegged back late on, and although Suárez did grab a consolation at the end, Spain had insurance. From the early exchanges, it was clear the Euro 2012 winners were in prolific mood and put the game beyond Uruguay, especially as the South Americans had two players who could hurt them. Spain’s forward play was quicker and more direct, something rarely seen in the early stages of a tournament, and looked as though they could score at will. Playing Uruguay, arguably the favourites to follow Spain through the group, was probably better as it ensured Spain had to perform above average and secure a vital win which virtually seals their passage through to the semi-finals. In current form, you fear for minnows Tahiti who are up next.

One last chance for Suárez and Cavani to earn their big-money moves

Chased by a number of top clubs, Uruguay’s front pairing of Cavani and Suárez have been able to dodge questions due to the sanctity of the Uruguay team base. However, a strong showing on the world stage could be one last chance to influence their future. Suárez scored a brilliant free-kick late on which served Liverpool fans a painful reminder of what they could be about to lose. Cavani is a target for Chelsea and Real Madrid but was quiet for much of the game as Spain’s midfielders smothered him throughout. As the tournament goes on, the pair will have better chances to shine which could be enough to persuade one chairman/president to call for their chequebook.

Brazil suffering with pitch problems and groups that want to be heard

For Spain, this tournament gives an opportunity for Del Bosque to experiment with his side a little more before next year’s World Cup, but in truth, he already knows his strongest XI and his preferred formation. As for Brazil hosting the tournament, they have much more to learn before next summer. The pitch at the new stadium in Recife is one of the first places for improvement as the turf failed to settle prior to the tournament. As the game moved on, the grass began to cut up a lot like Wembley’s pitch used to. Whilst the stadium looked a picture, ticketing problems have marred the opening games with over 150,000 reported to be unsold – something else Britain is familiar with after last year’s Olympics. Adding to the difficulties, large groups of protesters have made the news following Brazil’s opening game with Japan. 39 people were injured that night but thankfully no such reports have surfaced from Spain’s game on Sunday.

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