re: Brazil v. Spain, 5:00PM, ESPN(Posted by crazy4lsu on 6/30/13 at 7:43 pm to The Boat)
So I wonder what Spain's reaction to this will be. They were thoroughly outplayed by Italy, and were soundly beaten by Brazil. There will be a rash of articles that say that the tiki-taka is dead etc, etc.
I think other nations have caught up, in a sense. Spain was always operating from a certain deficiency. They realized after 2006 that they would never have the biggest, strongest, or fastest team. That France team that beat them in the WC that year was all those things, along with technically proficient and defensively sound.
After that point, the Spanish FA made a decision to play in a style which catered to the players they country tended to produce, technical wizards who were mostly average athletes, but had amazing ability with the ball. Thus a style was born which prevented teams from exploiting Spain's weaknesses because the other teams could never get the ball, and when the opposition did get the ball, they were too tired from winning it back that they could not muster an efficient attack.
The response to this by teams is to use superior athletes, if they have them, to press the ball like Spain do. The Spanish still have their weaknesses without the ball, namely behind the ball defensive shape and organization. The Spanish are so nervous without the ball that they are eager to get it back, which when it doesn't work results in wild positioning and flimsy defensive shape.
Obviously this problem is only beginning to coalesce, as this is the first year Spanish teams domestically have looked tactically out of sorts on the continent since the era of Spanish dominance. This problem has now manifested itself internationally, though it was always hinted at by the way Spain insisted on playing.
Thus going forward Spain are still mostly efficient, but they are defensively wayward. I think they have a couple of options. They could try to play one of Busquets or Martinez at CB, and move Ramos to RB, which would help them have an offensive threat from the right side. Also Ramos would then offer a wide outlet which would allow the right sided offensive player to move inward and combine with the central midfielders. Another option could be to return to the double pivot, with Busquets and Martinez, among many deep CM options, holding positions in front of the CBs, with Xavi still central and Iniesta wide left. This would give Alba some freedom on the left side, as Iniesta would naturally move central and the pivot should be able to cover any of Alba's forward runs. This would require more dynamic forward play than Spain can currently muster, as Villa and Torres aren't the players they once were. They could attempt to change formations to accommodate their defensive frailties while giving their wide players more offensive freedom by going to three at the back, but I don't think they have the defensive depth to do this through a whole tournament.
This said, Spain are still one of the best teams in the world, but they are running into a problem which combines personal and tactical conundrums that are difficult to solve. My inclination is that del Bosque doesn't want to rock the boat too much, lest he disrupt the ever sensitive Spanish dressing room, which is the most often cited reason of Spain's relative lack of success pre-2008. He simply cannot rely on Arbeloa or Alonso, one because of his forward play, the other age. Despite this, he has quite a few options, as Spain plenty of young players eager for a chance to impress.