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Spain’s final World Cup tuneup reveals a favorite comfortable in its own style
Question of the Day
Only two teams have ever won back-to-back World Cups: Italy in 1934 and 1938 and Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
Spain wasn’t worried as much about the result in what became a 2-0 win over El Salvador. The defending World Cup champions came to D.C. to face the heat and humidity and allow coach Vicente del Bosque a chance to analyze and determine his final 11 starters. What he saw in this friendly gave him a bit more to think about.
On paper Spain has one of the deadliest attacks in the sport, but historically La Furia Roja has struggled to score more than one or two goals a game.
Despite dominating the time of possession in the first half, Spain could not find the back of the net. Cesc Fabregas, who has been mentioned as a potential starter in Brazil, struggled after missing a penalty early on a controversial call against El Salvador goalkeeper Henry Hernandez.
But striker David Villa, who will be playing in his last World Cup, proved to be the spark. After coming in as a substitute at halftime he opened the scoring with a header on a pass from Sergio Ramos in 60th minute. He struck again in the 88th minute, diving on a pass from David Silva and sliding the ball into the bottom left corner of the net.
For the vast majority of the game Spain looked brilliant, completing 71 percent of its passes and never looking fazed on defense. Spain struggled to score against a Salvadorian team that failed to qualify for Brazil but came up with just enough to win — a storyline familiar to this team.
In 2010 Spain won the trophy, but barely scored enough goals to do it. In the group stage the Spanish lost to Switzerland before beating Honduras 2-0 and Chile 2-1. They moved on from their group scoring only one goal in each contest on their way to hoisting the trophy.
In seven games they scored eight goals and only won one of their games by more than one goal.
The upside of this for the Spaniards is that their defense played extraordinarily well in South Africa, and goalkeeper Iker Casillas returns between the sticks in 2014. They faced some of the most high-powered offenses in the world in 2010 including Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands without allowing a goal.
In qualifying this year Spain allowed only three goals through eight games, proving that it has not lost its defensive magic.
Del Bosque is not blind to his team’s offensive woes, but so far his defense has played well enough to carry the team and his strikers have turned up just in the nick of time.
“We need better continuity and better chances in the attacking third,” the coach said. “But we played well defensively despite not training much together.”
Having players like Villa available to provide a spark off the bench has been critical to Spain’s success throughout the 2014 campaign.
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