Friday, June 27, 2008

Euro 2008: David Villa out of final

After limping off towards the last ten minutes of the first half in the semi-final against Russia, there's news today that David Villa will not be playing in the final.

He will of course be missed on the night by millions across the world. It would have been a treat to see him add to his tally of four goals with more of the same quality, but it is not to be and we'll just move on.

The question is if Spain will miss him as much? He has been there best striker (with creditable supporting roles from Torres and now Guiza) but funnily enough they played their best game when he was not on the pitch.

Of course it wasn't down to him. It was down to the formation changing which in turn made the slightly struggling mid-field turn into the most entertaining and lethal force in this tournament, which given all the exquisite stuff we had already seen, speaks something of what they could achieve with a mid-field five.

In the quarter final against Italy, the Spanish midfield always had to look for passes up into the opposition area to find their strikers allowing the Italians to cut off their spaces. Though they had a lot of posession, the Spanish were not able to dominate. True that was not the case against Russia, but then Russia began the game looking to be positive unlike the Italians and I expect the Germans to bring an approach which would combine the caution of Italy with bursts of aggression, especially through their wide men.

With five in mid-field suddenly Senna, Xavi etc. did not have to look for teammates through opponent players. At any point in time they could make a little sideway pass and move a few steps further to keep marching towards the Russian goal in small triangles.

Which must make it very tempting for Luis Aragones to start with the five man mid-field and leave either Torres or Guiza alone upfront. I do feel that Spain would be more effective this way than with an untested strike pair up front being given the responsibility of collecting, holding and shooting the ball against some strong looking Germans.

J Low and Germany of course will have seen the Spain performance and will be ready to counter either Spanish plan. They are capable of physically domianting the Spanish and their success will depend on keeping the Spanish as far away from their defensive third as possible. They won't worry about keeping posession too much as they will be justified in backing their own ability to convert a high percentage of the chances they get. And many from their starting eleven have the ability to switch between playing deep or in advanced positions effortlessly.

But will that be enough to stop Senna, Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta and Senna? Not if they can repeat their semi-final display. Of course they'll have to play stronger and run a bit more to make themseleves available for passes, but they are capable of doing so, having needed far less than the available quota of steam to finish of the Russians.

I think Villa's injury has made Luis' selection headache a bit easier. Of course, he still needs to pick between Torres and Guiza, and though Torres should on paper be the overwhelming favorite, I won't venture into making a prediction on this one. Personally, I would go for Torres even without his finishing boots on, as I would expect the striker to be involved in a lot of link-up play and flicks to set up advancing mid-fielders and here is where Torres will be deadly.

Its up to Aragones now and all we can do is wait. So I will wait in anticipation to see which Spain turns up on Sunday and whether the German machine can adapt accordingly.

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