Jun 26, 2013, 8:55 PM EDT
The questions start with last summer’s Euro 2012 final and boil down to the same purpose – trying to determine how Italy can beat Spain. There’s always the Switzerland and United States model – sit deep, disrupt in midfield as the attack approaches the final third, hope fortune shines on your counterattack – but aside from that kind of low percentage play, is there any way the Azzurri can compete with the reigning World Champions?
In fairness to Cesare Prandelli’s side, it’s unclear anybody in the world can go toe-to-toe with Vicente del Bosque’s armada. Since shaking the monkey off their back in 2008, Spain’s swagger’s matched their talent, with only two teams able to meaningfully compete with the Spanairds without resorting to the sit-and-wait model. In 2010, Bert van Maarwijk’s Dutch side chose a deplorably cynical approach in taking Spain to extra time in South Africa, while Portugal may have legitimately outplayed the Furia Roja in the semifinals of last summer’s European Championships.
Along the way, Spain have claimed two major titles while coming to the verge of one of their last unclaimed trophy. So if Italy shouldn’t play like the Dutch, can’t play like the Portuguese, and probably won’t play like the Swiss or Americans, what’s left?
Courage, is what Prandelli might say. That was the value he espoused in the lead up to the Brazil match, and although Italy lost that group stage battle 4-2, they showed better than they did in last year’s European final. If the Italians can play with the same vigor on Thursday, they ‘ll live with whatever outcome befalls them.
The truth of this tournament is that outcomes don’t matter a lot. Yes, you always want to play your best, but nobody’s going to cry over having failed to claim the Confederations Cup. So if Italy can play with heart, stay strong defensively while executing going forward, they’ll live with the result. Building from 2010’s disappointment, theirs is still a process, once which culminates with next year’s World Cup.
Particularly with Mario Balotelli out, Italy may have to look for signs of progress rather than watershed results. That means getting a better performance in goal from Gianluigi Buffon. That means making sure the defense can plug the holes. Can the midfield compete with Spain’s dynamos? And is there an attacker that can show Italy need not be so dependent on Mario Balotelli?
For Spain, however, the results do matter, just as they always do whenever their first team players play. Any slip sends chinks into the armor of invincibility that’s be built despite their periodic upsets. If a team like Italy does go toe-to-toe, does compete with the armada, then there’s no reason Argentina, Germany, and perhaps Brazil can’t do the same.
Four-nil is the benchmark carried over from last year, but Spain doesn’t need to replicate that to maintain their perch. Nor do they need Jordi Alba, the left back who scored twice against Nigeria, to keep up his goal-scoring ways in order to build on what they’ve done. While it would help of Roberto Soldado firmed up his place in the team or Cesc Fabregas justified del Bosque’s selection, what Spain really needs is for Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Sergio Busquets to play as they did against Spain. They need Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué to continue to be the ultimate insurance policies. And they need Iker Casillas to be the man he was two years ago.
If all that happens, Thursday’s game in Fortaleza should be similar to most Spanish national team games: Entralling but predictable – reaffirming the hegemonic state of the current soccer world.
May 26, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
All-in-all, he’s played for 11 clubs — four on loan — and only one for more than 30 matches (Standard Liege).
May 26, 2015, 8:36 PM EDT
He finished off the speech with a brilliant line regarding Chelsea, “They played from August till May and sometimes they brought the bus.”
May 26, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT
Chicharito’s career will make an interesting case study when all’s said and done.
May 26, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT
“Surely he knows … that outside of the voting chambers, that the world … the players and supporters, want change,” Delaney said.
May 26, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT
The USMNT faces Germany on June 10 in Cologne after a June 5 date at Amsterdam Arena against the Netherlands.
May 26, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
A great deal of clubs can find young talent on our list, as the 2014-15 season review continues.
May 26, 2015, 4:33 PM EDT
Napoli finished fourth in Serie A, and made it to the Europa League semifinal before being bounced by Dnipro.
May 26, 2015, 3:41 PM EDT
This list will tend to include more high-profile names than low-risk moves that didn’t pan out.
May 26, 2015, 2:38 PM EDT
Find out which 11 players shone during the final matchday of the 2014-15 PL season.
May 26, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT
The grades are in… Let’s see who is top of the class.
May 26, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT
A hat trick hero finished the season off in style. Find out who was the best in the PL during the final week of the season.
May 26, 2015, 11:55 AM EDT
PST’s Lead Writer and Editor reflects on another action-packed PL season.
May 26, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT
West Ham’s 2015-16 season will now kick off on July 2.
May 26, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT
Will the 37-year-old finally make his long-rumored switch to MLS this summer?
May 26, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
The Hornets are extremely likely to have a new manager in charge for the 2015-16 season.
May 26, 2015, 7:38 AM EDT
Real’s president isn’t quite sure why he fired Ancelotti. That says it all.
May 25, 2015, 11:30 PM EDT
McClaren was Mike Ashley’s first managerial target earlier this month. Now unemployed, will McClaren end up at Newcastle United?
May 25, 2015, 10:26 PM EDT
Go behind the scenes, all-access style, with Xavi on the day of his final Camp Nou appearance.
May 25, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT
With his contract expiring this summer, Dani Alves is posturing — and doing it well — for upcoming negotiations.
May 25, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT
We’re only through 12 weeks of the 2015 season, but one man is threatening to run away with the Golden Boot race already.
- Mourinho rips Top 4 rivals at awards dinner; Takes extra shot at Wenger’s Arsenal 0
- Premier League Grades: How did each team fare in 2014-15? 5
- Premier League Playback: Looking back at a memorable 2014-15 season 0
- Didier Drogba open to Major League Soccer move after leaving Chelsea 8
- Real Madrid president asked what’s wrong with Carlo Ancelotti: “I don’t know” 2
- In a career full of blunders, firing Carlo Ancelotti is Florentino Perez’s worst mistake yet 7