FIFA World Cup 2010: What to Expect from Spain in Round of 16

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FIFA World Cup 2010: What to Expect from Spain in Round of 16
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Spain's performance thus far in the tournament has been heavily inspired by the super-striker David Villa.

He had a part to play in all the four goals scored by Spain and ensured that Del Bosque's team ended the Group stages by topping Group H against all the odds (!).

Next up is Portugal. There was a possibility of a mouthwatering clash between Brazil and Spain this early in the competition; fortunately, it was avoided when an ultra-defensive Portugal team played out a stalemate against a virtually unbeatable Brazil.

Spain's showings thus far haven't been convincing.

They played well against Switzerland, but lacked the creativity and composure in the final third to break down a stubborn defence. Instead, a lapse in concentration conceded a goal, which was enough to see them end up on the losing side.

Spain came out with a vengeance against Honduras in their second match and created a multitude of scoring opportunities, but again composure was the word forgotten by most of the Spanish players except David Villa.

His first goal in this World Cup was a sheer beauty.

Even the goalkeeper of Honduras would have admired him for that kind of solo show.

Jesus Navas, too, had a huge part to play in this game and did pretty well. His pace and precise crossing aided Spain's counter-attacking game and ultimately it led to the second goal.

And the scorer again was David Villa—who else? But he also had to endure a moment when a hero becomes a zero.

From the penalty spot, Villa deservedly got his chance to complete hat trick. However, his shot was wide and that was probably the only mistake Villa committed in this World Cup.

Spain's third game with Chile was crucial and a win was imperative to top the table against a Chile side that was riding high on confidence after two consecutive wins.

Villa proved his worth again by scoring the opener, which came as a result of goalkeeper's mistimed adventure.

It still needed a finish and the ball rightly rolled towards the World's best striker's foot—forgive me Rooney and Drogba fans, but that's the truth.

Without even taking a touch, Villa's left-footed curl precisely bounced into an open net. For a moment, the goalkeeper thought he was an outfield player. We call that the moment of madness in football.

Spain's second goal resulted after a classic piece of build-up and exquisite finishing at the end of it.

Iniesta showed why he's such a great player with that finish, and again Villa was the one who set up the goal. Player of the tournament, anybody?

In the build-up to that goal, however, Torres's theatrical stunts forced the referee to send off Chile's Estrada, who was already cautioned and picked up his third yellow card in as many games and now can sit out and relax before restarting his ugly tackling routines.

On a side note, Del Bosque's tactics should be criticised here. He preferred two holding players in all the games, and that's beyond comprehension.

He isn't adventurous enough to go for the kill. Had he started with only one holding player, maybe their result against the Swiss could have been different.

Spain often keep 60-70 percent possession against any kind of opposition, so tackling and breaking down the opponents' attack isn't the priority.

This fact underlines why Spain are the only team that didn't receive a card of any colour thus far in the 2010 World Cup.

Most teams play with a tight defensive line against Spain, so Del Bosque should use another creative player instead of a defensive-minded player to open some of the tightest defences, especially the one of Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo's team hardly concedes a goal and the game against Brazil showed why.

A center back sat in front of the defence and a pure wing back was made to play as the winger; that sums up the Portugal mindset.

Pepe is one of the most cynical players in world football and the likes of Xavi and Villa must be cautious in their round of 16 clash.

Had Brazil's Felipe Melo played in the second half against Portugal, most likely, he would have demolished Pepe, such was the ill-will between both players in the first half. Melo all but lost his head.

However, Dunga aptly replaced him at the right time. Otherwise, Spain may not have had to consider the Pepe factor. Now Spanish fans cursing Dunga for substituting Melo?

Spain's performance hasn't been as convincing as that of Brazil's, but they can peak at any moment if the combination is right.

Del Bosque's team selection looks awful at times. Jesus Navas is the man in form and somehow the Spain coach should fit him into the starting 11.

He offers variety and direct play; also his crossing abilities are second to none in the current Spanish team.

And Torres shouldn't start anymore. May be he can come on from the bench and prove that he's match-fit. Now he's fit, but not match-fit!

His first touch is terrible and instead of shooting at the goal, he's often disposing balls into orbit—as if Jabulani balls need a touch of Torres's foot to go into orbit.

Don't be surprised if Adidas launches a complaint against Torres for such wild shooting, thus incurring further criticism on the ball that is already criticised by many including Robert Green (how can he not criticise!).

Another weak link in Del Bosuqe's team is left back position. Capdevilla isn't good enough to control that flank, especially with Villa playing in front of him.

Villa likes to get into the box as much as possible, but Capdevilla is slow to move farther up and get into crossing positions to support the forwards. On the other hand, while defending, he can be outrun by pacy forwards.

Del Bosque should make a choice between Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, maybe only the former. Busquets is a curse to Spain's free-flowing style.

We may not see the in-form players like Fabregas and Jesus Navas in the next game, so the onus will be entirely on Villa to score goals; added pressure, you may say, with Torres not expected to find the back of net in this World Cup.

That doesn't mean Portugal are going to win. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. dismantled a hapless DPR Korea team, but their tourney may not go beyond the round of 16.

Portugal's midfield is too weak to upset too many good sides, let alone Spain. Having said that, if Del Bosque sticks by his ultra-cautious approach even after having such a talented squad his expedition, he too, could well be cut short soon.

I can't guarantee anything but one. David Villa will score against Portugal (now that's over-confidence!). He's in that sort of form and in all likelihood would end up taking the Golden Boot back to Spain unless, of course, a lucky Gonzalo Higuain pops up to tap in the rebounds.

Prediction: Spain 3-1 Portugal

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