Well, that was rather easy. A match that the Spanish players may have expected to have come out battered and bruised and begging for the summer holidays to begin, turned out to be a fairly simple affair.
The 2-1 victory over Uruguay in the Confederations Cup saw La Seleccion sagging a little in the end due to fatigue but able to hang on to a lead built up by 75 minutes of scintillating, fizzy football.
“We did almost everything well,” said a cheerful Spain manager, Vicente Del Bosque, after Sunday’s win in the Group B opener, via FIFA.com.
But whilst an exciting encounter against the feisty and frequently fouling South Americans can be seen as a worthy use of the footballers’ time and energy, the same cannot be said for Spain’s second group match, a tie with Tahiti.
Perhaps the only motivation for the participants in the game is the chance to strut their Spanish stuff in the Maracana stadium for the first time since 1950. Aside from that, it is this clash against the Pacific Islanders that gives the feeling for many back home that the best medicine for the reigning world and European champions was not more matches this summer but a good rest on the beach.
Still, duty calls and Spain will be lining up in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday for the second of the team’s group matches that will be completed with a clash against Nigeria. The one faint hope for Tahiti is that big Spanish guns who featured in Sunday’s victory will be putting their feet up on the bench.
Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas were among a starting eleven who came exclusively from clubs playing in La Liga.
Thursday’s game, though, may well see a more internationally based group, however there are few crumbs for comfort for Spain’s next opponents as those footballers are likely to be cropped from lowly minnows such as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Bayern Munich. Footballers from Real Madrid and Barcelona who are set to be involved are no slouches either.
Ten changes would not be a complete surprise, although it is quite possible that Del Bosque may wish to stick with captain, Iker Casillas, in goal, with the Real Madrid man being the surprise starter in Sunday’s game.
The back four could see Cesar Azpilicueta and Nacho Monreal on the flanks with Raul Albiol and either Gerard Pique or Sergio Ramos alongside the centre-back. Realistically, Jesus Navas could stand there reading a guide to Manchester for all the work the forward would have to do in Spain’s rearguard.
The familiar midfield trident formation will be anchored by Javi Martinez with Santi Cazorla and perhaps David Silva spending 90 minutes tormenting the Tahitians. The front three looking to improve their goalscoring statistics a tad should be Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and David Villa—not all that shabby all things considered.
It is tempting to look at FIFA rankings, experience and quality and predict a scoreline in Spain’s favour that goes somewhere into the hundreds. But footballers can be an honorable bunch on the odd occasion, and the world champions will be in no mood to humiliate their rivals, who will be enjoying the high point of their sporting careers.
For that reason, a respectable 6-0 is a likely outcome with Spain potentially in a peculiar situation where the players will be doing their best not to find the back of the net and ruin a special night for the opposition.