Tiki-Taka a style that has defined Spanish football for a generation, a style that is both attractive and effective as both Spain and Barcelona has proven.
But, has this style of football turned from a winning formula to an idealistic detriment. Looking back on Group C for Spain has been interesting, as their side has played stunning football. That is compared to artistry through their ball retention and variation in movement and passing ability.
However, has this football philosophy of Vicente Del Bosque narrowed in one style? The persistence in which Del Bosque deployed Fabregas against Italy in the ‘false nine’ position demonstrated just that. Even though it eventuated in a goal, the multitude of opportunities spurn from a lack of the clichéd focal point up front proved just that.
Ironically, just as Torres showed his worth against Italy in the final stages, against Ireland in a matter of minutes converted his shot. With that in my mind, Del Bosque has gone into the final group game with Torres still as the focal point.
However, unlike against Ireland- a lesser side to Croatia- it took longer for a chance to be converted. And Navas’s 88th minute goal is the archetype goal put on sides similar to Spain who want to ‘walk the ball’ in the net.
Following La Furia Roja’s win against Croatia, it has led to Slaven Bilic to say "I don't see them as the really big favourites," he said. "There are quite a few teams that maybe have more pace and are hungry to win and maybe more aggressive on the pitch than Spain."
Might this be the words of a manager disgruntled after a vital match or the truth? Opposing sides may heed the advice from Bilic, especially England who has defeated the dual reigning European and World Champions.
A battle of Tiki-Taka v Two Banks of four, idealism v pragmatism and Del Bosque v Hodgson, a potential battle of opposites. Similarly how Italy proved to the world, that you can still play your game and hold your own against Spain with their fearless approach. How differing tactical systems, that can hurts Spain’s ability to penetrate, in this instance a resolute Italian defence proved the stumbling block.
The idealism that surrounds Spain’s game that needs to be in all facets a work of art hinders their progress. Oppose to the efficiency and win at all cost approach by the Germans. Who by all accounts haven’t played the football that had the football world up in arms in South Africa two years previous?
It would be refreshing to see a more ruthlessness in the Spanish side. They aren’t the same team; they were four years ago, or even two. The absence of Puyol and Villa cannot be underestimated.
The defensive solidity is in question, as Italy has proven and Croatia to a lesser extent, instances when Di Natale score from Pirlo through ball, and when Balotelli was in on goal- but knocked over by Pique, Rakitic missing after a delicious ball in by Modric.
Other than their goal spree against a shambolic Irish side, Spain hasn’t hit any heights in terms of goals scored. And with World Cup 2010 in mind, most of the Spain’s games ended with one goal margins, majority of those goals scored by Villa, finishing the tournament with five out of a possible seven games.
With all of Spain’s midfield options their striking options seem to be limited, as Del Bosque opting to go with Torres or Fabregas, other than exterminating with Llorente or Negredo, as Llorente being seen as somewhat of a ‘plan B’ rather than a viable starter, whilst Negredo is an impact player.
What will Del Bosque go with in the quarter-finals, more of the same, a more pragmatic approach or tactical change not anticipated by anyone? Regardless, the mentality of the Spanish must be to win first and amaze shortly after.