The mighty Spanish national team faced questions and concerns after an inexplicable draw against Finland, but all is well with La Roja following a 1-0 victory over France.
The win was not a display dominance, nor was it a resounding statement. It was simply business as usual for the reining World Cup champions and the winners of the last two European Championships.
Vincent Del Bosque’s side controlled the ball for 75 percent of the match and was able to get the best opportunities on goal. A fantastic effort from Pedro to get on the end of Nacho Monreal’s cross in the 58th minute gave Spain the slim margin it needed to earn three points.
This was another showing of the discipline and confidence Spain has shown during the past five years. Time and time again, this team has shown that a 1-0 lead means the game is over.
That is why spectators were shocked to see Finland grab a late equalizer. It made La Roja look vulnerable and concerning questions followed.
How long can the run last? Is Del Bosque’s message getting stale? Is the side too old to win another major tournament?
But beating France put all the doubts away, and for now, there is no reason to doubt La Roja.
During the team’s last three major trophies, its has won seven of its 10 knockout-stage games either in shootouts or by a 1-0 score line. Spain’s constant pressing and ability to regain possession in the midfield ensures that the opposition is never truly able to establish itself in the attack.
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This was the case once again in the victory over France. Del Bosque sent his team out on the pitch with the expectation that they would execute the game plan that has led to so many important victories.
When Spain had the ball, it made few mistakes and completed 89 percent of its passes.
On the rare occasion that it did lose possession, the central midfielders were on the spot to stop the French before they could build any semblance of an attack. Xabi Alonso finished with six tackles, while Sergio Busquets had six interceptions.
The relentless pressure and dizzying display of one-touch passing allowed La Roja to keep France on its heels, and eventually, the team break through with Pedro’s goal.
Del Bosque’s signature blueprint for beating the world’s top teams once again was carried out to perfection.
All of the doubt that followed Spain after the draw to Finland is now gone. This team is still capable of passing its opponent to death, and at this point, there is little reason to believe that any other team has a better chance to become champions in Brazil next summer.
Note: statistics courtesy of Whoscored.com.