Quick post before the kickoff…
1. Test Casillas. People keep insisting Casillas is still one of the best. I haven’t seen that. He’s rarely been tested and I blame him for the goal against the Swiss. You can’t slide feet first. He chose to slide fee first so he wouldn’t get hurt. He also turned a routine save into a juicy rebound against Paraguay, gifting them their best chance. Yes, he came out and made a decent save on that rebound but a top goalie does not create that chance to start.
2. Robben has got to dominate Capdevila. We already know much of the Dutch attack goes through Robben but quick outlets to Robben to run at Capdevila will be crucial to getting into the Spanish box.
3. DeJong and VanBommel have to do what no one else has been able to do. Stop Spain from dominating the middle of the field. With Sneidjer really playing as a second striker most of the time in Holland’s 4-2-3-1, I’d have real concerns about Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso having their way in the middle of the field but I’d imagine Kuyt’s work rate will be called upon to help in midfield more and he’ll play a deeper role.
4. Central defenders have to be disciplined. I still find Brazil’s goal against Holland shocking. Holland are supposed to be a very functional, structurally sound squad but to be opened up like that with a bit of movement and a deep midfield run is a real concern.
5. VanPersie has to be deadly. He won’t get a lot of the ball and has to make great use of it when he does get released.
1. Iniesta continues to be the midfielder who translates possession into penetration in the attacking third. Teams will concede possession if they don’t feel you’re likely to do much with it. Eventually possession has to move towards gaining territory and creating chances. As great as I think Xavi is, I think Iniesta has been more influential in delivering the final ball and even getting strikes at goal himself.
2. Casillas. If you’re still world class, this would be a good stage to show that.
3. Ramos has been the most pleasant surprise in the Spain team for me so far and he has to dominate Van Bronckhurst. Again, even thought he midfield gets all the press the final balls into the box have been led by Iniesta and Ramos. Spain’s domination of possession leads most teams to pull a striker back into midfield to help. With only one striker, it frees Ramos up to play as a true wing back and he does a great job of challenging his opposing outside back relentlessly and providing good service into the box.
4. Spain have to hold their nerve. They don’t have the bottler reputation of past Spain squads due to their Euro win in 2008 but they are playing a team that, I believe, really is not scared of them. They did it against the Germans in the semis and imposed their game on a team that, more than any Spain had faced to that point, had the ability to not allow that. The key to beating Spain is to not allow them to set the tempo and control the manner in which it’s played. Spain have to ensure they continue writing the script and make Holland adapt.
I’m taking Spain 2-1.