You just could not have imagined it, could you? Well, maybe you could have, if you took a trip back to the Confederations Cup Final. On that day, Spain were thrashed 3-0 by a Brazil side that ruthlessly picked them apart on the counter-attack. Fast forward to Spain v the Netherlands, and it was the same story all over again.
The writing was surely on the wall, but only the Dutch had put on their reading glasses. The result as a 5-1 masterclass performance by Louis van Gaal’s men that left La Furia Roja in complete disarray. They now have to right the ship incredibly fast against a Chilean team that have the quality to put them to the sword as well, and ending their summer before it truly began.
Chile played well against Australia in their own right, but will have some work to do if they are to ward off a Spanish side looking to set the record straight. A 3-1 victory over Australia is a bit flattering, as the Aussie’s created a ton of chances and should have scored at least two on the day. While Chile were strong going forward, they looked incredibly shaky in the defensive third of the pitch – that surely must be addressed before tomorrow.
Will Spain bounce back from their disastrous start to the tournament and put themselves back on track for the knockout stages, Or will Chile seal their place in the next round and send Spain back to the Iberian peninsula empty handed and shy of a historical back-to-back World Cup Victory? Here is our preview and predictions.
Projected starting XI’s
Spain: Iker Casillas; Cesar Azpilicueta; Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Juanfran; Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas; Koke; Andres Iniesta, Diego Costa, Pedro Rodriguez
Chile: Claudio Bravo; Euginio Mena, Gary Medel, Gonzalo Jara, Mauricio Isla; Marcelo Diaz, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz; Jorge Valdivia; Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas
Key’s for Spain:
- Doing a much better job at anticipating and dealing with counter attacking play. They will always look to have the lions share of possession, so there is no reason they should not expect a counter-attack from their opponent. Much like the Netherlands, Chile have plenty of quality to hit Spain quickly on the break, so not only will the midfield cover need to be better, but the positioning and overall play from their wing backs as well.
- Getting Diego Costa into 1 v 1 match-ups in the final third. He is very good at either out-pacing his marker, or beating them with the ball at his feet, and there is no reason why he should not be trusted to get by Gary Medel or Gonzalo Jara when in the box. Whether he wins a free-kick, penalty or gets a look on frame, they must do an even better job at keeping him well supplied throughout the match.
- Bringing their wide players into the match far more than they did against the Netherlands. Both David Silva and Andres Iniesta were incredibly ineffective on the whole in their opener, and much of Spain’s success rests on drawing defenders away from central areas before they strike at the heart of the oppositions defense in central areas. Whether Pedro needs to get the nod ahead of Silva remains to be seen, but they need to be far better there in general.
Key’s for Chile:
- Capitalizing in the same fashion that the Dutch did. Jordi Alba will want to press forward on the left, and that could end up leaving a ton of space available for Alexis Sanchez to take advantage of in behind.
- Making sure that Gary Medel and Gonzalo Jara do not get sucked into Spain’s ability on the ball and their intelligent movement both on an off the ball which always has a way of drawing defenders far out of position.
- Negativing the influence and effectiveness of the Spanish midfield trio. That job must fall to Arturo Vidal and Marcelo Diaz – both are quite capable of shutting down the likes of Koke, Xavi, Alonso and Fabregas. The Dutch did so in telling fashion, so they only need to apply that same tactical make-up.
- Alexis Sanchez v Jordi Alba – Sanchez may be playing as one of two strikers, but he loves to drift wide on the opposition left flank. The more success he has there, the less time Alba will spend concentrating on trying to create going forward. If Alba remains forward, that’s even more room for Sanchez to be influential from.
- Marcelo Diaz v Koke - Koke did not feature against the Dutch, but this season at Atletico Madrid shows just how creative and dangerous he is on the ball. His understanding with Costa at club level makes him even more dangerous as well. Diaz will have his hands full, but he has the quality to keep him quiet – it will be key if Chile want to get anything out of this.
- Gary Medel v Diego Costa – Medel lacks height and is not the best in the air, but he has more pace than your usual center back, plenty of fight in him and a very good ability to bully people off the ball. On the other side of the coin, Costa loves to look for the foul, but also loves to take players on both in the box and outside of it. He who wins this battle will surely get the other into card trouble, thus making them less effective.
Staff match predictions
Drew: I am not sure that Vicente Del Bosque is ready to make the changes that are necessary to fix the problems. The Netherlands used the same tactics that saw Brazil beat Spain in the Confederations Cup final, so who is to say Chile won’t do the same? Chile do struggle at the back however though, so I think Spain will bounce back and win 3-2.
Young: I think Spain’s unwillingness to change will yet again be their undoing. Chile have enough quality about them but also pace and athleticism that is sure to exploit the holes in the Spanish back-line that will no doubt be exploited on the wings given their preference to get involved in the attack. I say 2-1 Chile.
Luke: 2-1 to Spain. They have so much quality that even if they have not learned all the lessons from their thrashing against the Dutch, that quality can come to the fore and see them through. Chile have been known to misfire in the final third and Spain are the more ruthless of the two, so I think Spain will right the ship.
Charles: I will say 2-1 Chile. They will learn the lessons taught by the Netherlands and use their strong ability off the counter attack and their incredibly effective central players to clog the midfield, which will isolate Diego Costa up front as well as the other wide players.