On Tuesday, Spain got what was arguably their biggest win since a 4-0 win over Italy in the Euro 2012 final as La Furia Roja invaded Paris and conquered France 1-0.
Spain looked good from the start, as Xavi nearly had an opening goal within the first five minutes, but his shot went just high over the post. Xavi missed a low shot in the 17th minute. What looked like a clear penalty against Pedro later on was not called by the referee.
Franck Ribery had what might have been the best chance for France in the 38th minute as a defensive mistake led to a one-on-one with Victor Valdes. VV stepped up and wonderfully stopped Ribery's shot.
France continued to press, despite going down to 10 men later in the second half. But Valdes continued to shut down the French. In the 86th minute, a free kick was nearly headed in by Patrice Evra, but Valdes made the stop and saved Spain.
FINAL: France 0 - 1 Spain
With the win, Spain moved back to the top of UEFA Group I.
Crisis averted, right?
There was never a crisis to begin with.
But even with this win, Spain still shouldn't be overconfident.
Defense still shaky
As we saw in the France game, the Spanish defense still struggles when it comes to counterattacks, set pieces, and mental mistakes. Gerard Pique was nearly responsible for Ribery getting a goal. One aspect that was good to see was the play of Nacho Monreal. The former Malaga man had a fantastic game, as his defense stopped many of France's runs—not to mention set up the goal for Pedro.
One aspect of the defense that needs to change is Alvaro Arbeloa's role. He has struggled as of late, and many in the Spanish media are wondering if he should be benched. Alvaro is the weak link in the Spanish back line.
While I do think Arbeloa is overrated, the question becomes, "Who fills in for him in the starting XI?" Do you move Monreal to the RB position? Or do you start someone else? Something to think about.
When will the lack of goals finally come back to haunt Spain?
Lack of goals has been something very common with Spain for years now. They essentially won the 2010 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2012 with 1-0 and 2-0 wins. Ball control has been the main reason this team has been able to win by those margins—not necessarily the defense.
But as we head closer to Brazil 2014, one has to wonder how long Spain can continue winning via the lowest margin of victory? As we saw against Finland, a 1-0 lead was not safe enough—even being at home.
One key factor in Spain's scoring—or lack thereof—is the lack of impact from a striker. In 2008, we had Fernando Torres dominating teams. In 2010, David Villa took care of most of the scoring during Spain's World Cup title run. Now heading into 2014, who will be the striker that will do the heavy lifting for La Furia Roja?
Which striker will step up for Spain?
Can David Villa recover his golden touch of years past? Recently, he's played extremely well for Barcelona.
Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo is overrated, in my opinion.
I don't believe in Fernando Torres anymore. I don't even think Chelsea believes in Torres. And I don't think El Niño deserves to be called up anymore. Fernando Torres is done with the national team.
Vicente Del Bosque needs to consider calling up Swansea's Michu. He has been great for his club team, and Spain needs another striker. Let's not forget Valencia's Roberto Soldado is not a bad option either. But I think Michu needs to be called up for Spain's next game against Finland in September.
As much as I love Spain's game, I worry that these 1-0 games will finally catch up to them. How long will it be until a team figures them out, and then Spain will have to score 3-4 goals? Of course they are capable of winning 4-0 or 5-0, but as we've seen over the past five years, Spain play close games in major tournaments. The only exception was the Euro 2012 final against a weak Italy squad.
Some would say Spain doesn't need a true striker all the time.
Euro 2012 showed us they can go into tournament and win with a false nine.
But will that work again in Brazil next year?
Who will step up for La Furia Roja?
Spain can't win the 2014 FIFA World Cup with 1-0 wins again, can they?
As a Spain fan, I hope so.
But I'm also a realist. Spain is going to need more goals, especially from their strikers.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona.
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