Australia vs. Spain: Both Sides Rebuilding, Have Long Roads Ahead

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Australia vs. Spain: Both Sides Rebuilding, Have Long Roads Ahead
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Spain avoided the FIFA World Cup Group B wooden spoon by defeating Australia 3-0 on Monday afternoon.

David Villa capped his final international appearance with a back-heeled opener, Fernando Torres made it two 20 minutes from time and Juan Mata iced the cake.

 

Formations and XIs

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Australia played a 4-2-3-1 formation as usual but replaced the suspended Tim Cahill with Adam Taggart up front. Oliver Bozanic came in at the No. 10 position for Mark Bresciano.

Spain made wholesale changes to the squad, bringing in Pepe Reina, Raul Albiol, Juanfran, Koke, David Villa, Fernando Torres and Santi Cazorla.

 

Australia: Improving

This game marked the end of Australia's surprisingly promising World Cup adventure, and despite bowing out with three losses and zero points, Ange Postecoglou should be proud.

With the Asian Cup around the corner in 2015, this tournament was always set to be a dummy run, and there are multiple features of the Socceroos' play—on show here and throughout the first two games—that can be carried forward.

Their pressing was very good yet again, continually forcing themselves into a high-block and testing Spain on the ball under pressure. They've developed a habit of tiring and fading off in the last 20-30 minutes, but here they remained committed throughout.

Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Legs were muddled and wires were crossed for Villa's opener, but the defensive line were only exposed quality-wise when squared up one-on-one, unprotected.

Offensively they were exceptionally stunted without Cahill, though, and that's going to be Postecoglou's biggest concern moving forward. Taggart underwhelmed and Ben Halloran was even worse. Who will carry the load when Cahill, 34, hangs up the boots?

This side isn't good enough to play without a target man who can hold the ball up or occupy two defenders to create space for others.

 

Spain: Some Good, Some Bad

For Spain, we were really looking for shoots of recovery to see if they knew how to reload from such an upsetting, demoralising campaign. 

Wholesale changes make it tough to gauge them as a team on the whole, but there were plenty of indicators as to what can and cannot work moving forward emerging from this game.

The pressing has to return; the side are vulnerable and soft without it. Gone are the days in which Pedro and Andres Iniesta would hound ball-handlers until they booted it out of play. Now they sit back, back off and allow themselves to be picked apart.

Villa's performance from the left was solid, and his willingness to drift across goal and into the centre-forward position once the actual striker had dropped deep is a reminder of what used to work.

ITV Sport
Torres' penetrative movement creates a goal.

Penetrative movement is necessary to unlock teams, and while Diego Costa provided that, he was too easy to shut down, as he was the only one doing it.

Villa and Torres moving together, with Iniesta operating between the lines, proved too much to handle for Australia—even in a low block.

Koke moved the ball with good pace and didn't dally on it, allowing his side to move into space before Australia closed it off with haste. Xavi has developed a habit of lingering, which takes the sting out of Spain's play.

 

Conclusion

This wasn't an analysis in keeping with the 35 preceding it, but the match had a distinct end-of-season feel to it that didn't lend itself to a forensic assessment.

Both sides are building, and one's closer to its goals than the other. Spain need to get a lot more right over the next 12 months, whereas the Socceroos are close to challenging Japan for top spot in Asia.

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