Spain Prove They're Still the Team to Beat vs. Uruguay

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Spain Prove They're Still the Team to Beat vs. Uruguay
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Spain showed they are still the team to beat.

Just seven weeks ago, the death knell rang for Spanish football.

A new era had arrived. The Germans were coming...or so they said.

Barcelona and Real Madrid were dispatched from the Champions League during late April in such a manner as to suggest that "tiki taka" was moribund. Finished. Over.

Sunday night's footballing lesson was surely a timely riposte to those naysayers and doom-mongers that the baton will not be handed over anytime soon.

Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez, known as "The Teacher," was not the only one sent back to school. Vicente Del Bosque's troops were simply unplayable. Joga Bonito—La Roja style. 

In a land where football is the religion, it was fitting to have faith restored and to witness football that often defies logic and description, but yet is pre-determined by these demigods of the modern game.

A simply astonishing stat of 92 percent possession from Spain after the first quarter-hour set the tone and rhythm of this match, and on this form, it's easy to see why this team has only been beaten six times in the last 94 internationals.

Perhaps the knowledge that they have never won this particular title was the kicker behind Spain's driving force, desire and constant forward pressing and movement throughout Sunday's spectacular performance.

Despite many players having to endure another grueling European season, there was a spring in the Spaniards' step. Captain Iker Casillas didn't even touch the ball until the 22nd minute, by which time we had already seen the first goal—a well-kept down half volley from Pedro that flew in courtesy of a massive deflection from Diego Lugano.

A fluidity within play was the hallmark of the Spanish performance with the areas of penetration and patterns of play constantly evolving from one side to the other. That ability to switch the line of attack at will was made possible by the intelligent distribution or ball retention of Xavi. As he glided about the midfield, so his colleagues would orbit the space in and around him. His diligent patrolling and awareness was the key to Spain's attacking intent.

That his 70 first-half passes were only 25 fewer than the entire Uruguayan team speaks volumes about his importance to this team. They are simply not the same proposition without his industry.

By contrast, the twin threat from Uruguay's front men, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, was virtually non-existent. The South Americans just could not get a foothold in the game, and much of the credit for this must go to Del Bosque.

Spain's total of 938 completed passes was three times as many as their opponents.

Spain's team selection was designed with an exquisite passing game in mind. Seven of the starting 11 were from Barcelona and three were from Real Madrid. Roberto Soldado of Valencia was the odd man out.

Perhaps the only sour note from a night of footballing perfection was in fact that the "duopoly" of the last few years in Spanish football was very much in evidence in that team selection.

Andres Iniesta was imperious in the centre of the park alongside Xavi, and the two strangled the life out of a much more physical Uruguayan presence. With Jordi Alba especially full of running and Cesc Fabregas enjoying a floating role that would normally be the preserve of Lionel Messi at club level, Spain always found themselves with an outlet.

Indeed, it was a delicious Fabregas delivery which picked out Soldado for Spain's second goal.

It was just one of almost 1,000 passes in the match—three times as many as their opponents—evidence enough of Spanish dominance in this match.

You would've been forgiven for thinking that Moses himself had strode forth onto the pitch and parted the Uruguayan defence. The striker was in a vast space before dispatching his chance with aplomb. 

At 2-0 and in complete control, the match was over as a contest.

The second-half introductions of Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Javi Martinez merely put the cherry on top of Del Bosque's cake. Such is the embarrassment of riches that he finds at his disposal.

Luis Suarez inevitably got his name on the scoresheet when his 25-yard free kick flew past Casillas into the Spain goal.

It was a disappointing end to an otherwise quiet night's work for the captain, yet he need not worry.

Spanish football is back in business. Normal service has resumed.

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