International Football

Spain's Key Weapon and Achilles' Heel at 2014 World Cup

Iniesta and Co dizzy opponents with their passing.
Iniesta and Co dizzy opponents with their passing.Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press
Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

Like every side at the World Cup, Spain have their strengths and their weaknesses.

The reigning world champions clearly have more strengths than weaknesses, but we're going to take a look at their key weapon and their Achilles' heel.

The latter is well documented. It's their striking situation.

They have four choices: Diego Costa, Fernando Torres, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas. Each have their pros and cons.

Of the three pure strikers, Costa has the most ability.

Diego Costa is the best forward Spain have.
Diego Costa is the best forward Spain have.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

He has enjoyed a fine season, helping Atletico Madrid upset established sides Barcelona and Real Madrid to win La Liga.

Unfortunately his fitness let him down toward the end of the season, with injury preventing him from playing more than a few minutes in the Champions League final.

As seen during his performances for Spain thus far, specifically against Italy and El Salvador, he isn't cut out to lead the line in a possession-focused side.

Spain boss Vicente del Bosque said as much, per El Mundo (h/t Fox Sports).

Costa's acceleration, his work rate, will serve us well. I don't talk just about goals. He didn't score against Italy on his debut, but he caused a lot of problems to their defence.

Often he won't even touch the ball but he stretches and stretches defences and has the ability to play to the limits of the offside trap. He is very valuable to us from a tactical point of view and was key to Atletico's style of play. Perhaps he won't have a key role in our build-up play, but he will be vital at finishing chances.

However, despite his excellent goal tally, Costa isn't a pure finisher.

Often he wastes good chances when played through on goal, but scores from trickier positions.

Villa, his team-mate, struck twice against El Salvador, but it's unlikely del Bosque will ask the forward to lead the line for Spain.

He's in the squad as a back-up, and it's Fabregas who is expected to lead the line.

The Barcelona midfielder has been playing out of position for club and country for a few years now.

Deployed as a false nine, or tucked on the wing, the former Arsenal star does his best, but he is far from perfect.

Fabregas plays as a false nine.
Fabregas plays as a false nine.Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press

Perhaps it may work in tight games like Spain's opener against Holland, with the pace of Pedro Spain's biggest threat against the Dutch.

Torres is good at stretching defences, but his actual ability is diminished at present.

He is often better for Spain than for Chelsea, but del Bosque might not want to risk him at the World Cup.

And their key weapon?

It's the same now as it has been for years.

It's the whirlwind speed of thought and boot offered by their midfield maestros.

Busquets helps anchor the tiki-taka passing wheel.
Busquets helps anchor the tiki-taka passing wheel.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Watching Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, David Silva, Santi Cazorla and the rest at work is always a privilege.

Even well-drilled teams can be suckered in by the fluid passing motion and movement of Spain.

A defence may be able to resist for 60 minutes, 70 or even 80, but you always believe that Iniesta or one of his cohorts will eventually be able to spot a gap and slip a ball through.

Whether Costa, Fabregas, Torres or Villa will be able to finish it is a different question.

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