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Spain vs Holland: 1 + 5 conclusions



Holland’s victory over Spain was described in both countries as a historical result, and not without reason. Never before had a defending World Champion gotten their butts handed to them in such an all-encompassing manner. Sure, France didn’t manage a single goal in the group stage of 2002, and the memory of Cameroon’s upset over Argentina is still vivid more than twenty years later. However, losing by five to one? Daaayumn.

rvp

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Please beyotch, it’s Robin Van Persie!

Flattering to deceive?

Did Spain really deserve this score line? They were on top for most of the first half, and although their penalty was given due to the fifth arbitral blunder of a two-day old tournament*, most viewers would agree that they deserved to be up one nil towards the end of the first half. Their midfield was in control, Costa looked dangerous throughout and David Silva squandered a great chance to bury the game by attempting to lob the Dutch keeper after Don Andrés carved open the defense like a Brazilian all you can eat meat buffet. Had he not gotten cute, it’s extremely doubtful the Oranje would have recovered from two goals down. Only a minute later, Holland equalized literally out of nowhere, with Van Persie deciding to finally break with his tradition of not showing up in big matches and executing one of the most beautifully headed goals seen in the history of the game. At the start of the second half, every Dutchman alive would have been happy if the game ended in a one-goal draw. Every Dutchman except eleven, that is. Was the fitness of the players the determining factor? The momentum after the second goal, which gave Holland wings on their backs and Spain lead in their feet? Van Gaal’s game plan of putting five Eredevisie players, two players from average EPL teams and a psycho maniac who makes Charlie Manson look like a teddy bear in service of two stars and a has been who plays at Galatasaray? Whatever the case, if you combine Spain’s defensive mistakes with the quality of Holland’s goals, five-one was an accurate reflection of a game that could have gone very differently.

casillas

When sainthood is not all it’s made out to be…

 

What a difference a season makes

With football’s governing bodies conspiring to squeeze maximum profits out of the game by filling calendars so much it’s rare to turn on the TV and not see a live match, it is no surprise that at a lot of international tournaments the star players underwhelm more often than they shine. Bring forth La Furia Roja, whose players have a combined gazillion minutes in their legs versus the Dutch, a team with five starters that had not even played European football last season. Couple that with Brazil’s heat and humidity and you can start to understand why Spain got overrun in the second half. To cite Louis Van Gaal, after modestly claiming he did not expect his team to win by that much, said that the key to Holland’s first game was to arrive fit and well-prepared for the climatic conditions.

Spain’s (and Barça’s) defense

One of the more interesting conclusions one could draw from this game is that it might not have mattered one iota if Barça had bought a much coveted central defender during the last three years. After all, Sergio Ramos pretty much fits the bill of what we need, right? Speedy**, physical and strong in the air. Yet their defense leaked like a zinc roof under a tropical rainstorm. There are of course some mitigating factors. Two goals were completely down to Casillas (of which one the argument can very well be made that he was fouled by Van Persie) and the other three were moments of such individual brilliance that I still can’t believe they all happened during the same game. And let’s not forget that in two years worth of competitive matches  before this one, Spain conceded a grand total of, you guessed it, five goals. Nevertheless, vast improvements under Gerardo Martino notwithstanding, the parallel with Barça’s defense stands. It will be interesting to see how Luis Enrique is going to address the balance of our team.

xabi

Possibly Xabi Alonso’s last World Cup game.

 

Arjen Robben

I can’t stand the guy. He’s arrogant, petulant and generally insufferable, or at least he comes off that way. I don’t know, maybe his mother likes him. Or not. But boy, is Holland lucky to have him. From his defense-splitting pass that put Sneijder eye to eye with Casillas to his sound barrier-breaking volley that La Roja’s captain miraculously kept out, the Dutch winger put up a performance for the ages. Both of his goals were a delight, and although the first one could have been prevented with a bit more solid defending, his second was unstoppable, leaving Piqué and Ramos with their eyes full of dust and turning Iker into a laughing stock. The big reason I considered Ribery’s ballon d’or candidacy of last year misguided was that he wasn’t even the best player on his team. Previously egocentric enough to make Cristiano Ronaldo look like Xavi Hernandez, if Robben had seen the light earlier in his career and combined his speed and technical abilities with the solid team play he has displayed over the last two years, he could have been in the running for player of the year awards throughout a big part of his career.

robben

What’s Spanish for “he got posterized”?

 

Spain’s chances for the rest of the tournament

Disastrous. I had not predicted them to go far to begin with, for the simple reason that they already defied the impossible by winning three tournaments in a row prior to this one, but to lose the opening game by such a huge score does not spell any good. They can keep their hopes alive by beating Chile on Wednesday and do Holland a huge favor in the process. If they draw, however, they’ll be left to hope that Holland lose their next two matches which, although not entirely impossible, must be considered unlikely. Either way, most of the scenarios in which they qualify for the next round will see them pitted against Brazil, a team which last summer’s Federation Cup final proved they do not match up well with at all. Such is life in the group of death, which must be won in order to avoid the host.

xaviniesta

Living legends.

And Holland’s…

It’s safe to say that the manner in which they beat the title holders has at least helped to get some of the stink off a team that was widely despised for having the audacity to for once actually try to win a World Cup at all costs in 2010. Never mind the fact that Manchester United fans the world over are creaming their pants at the prospect of Louis Van Gaal in charge of their club next season***. As for their chances, anything is possible. Winning the World Cup is a tall order for a country that for the first time in more than twenty-five years simply lacks the talent to manage anything near such lofty expectations, but if they can avoid Brazil in the second round they might go on a good run. Very few expected them to even come out of their group, but after an openener like this, anything less than  quarter final would have been a disappointed. Then again, it is not altogether inconceivable that they lose their next game to Australia… by five to one!

aficin-holanda

Go ahead son, make your country proud…

 

*We are three days later and honestly I’ve lost count. The biggest sport in the world in which games are generally won with the smallest margin will also be the last sport in the world to accept video technology. It’s a disgrace.

**  Yes, speedy. While Ramos was criticized for getting outrun for Holland’s last goal, he still clocked 31 km/hour. Problem is that Robben ran 37 km/hour, which is being touted as a record for a soccer player.

* * I still think he would have made for a great appointment at Barça

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140 Responses to “Spain vs Holland: 1 + 5 conclusions”

  1. Inamess says:

    Great Article Levon! I’m not sure what I can add except ask some obvious questions:

    1) Does the last 14 months officially end “tiki-taka” as a method to win competitive tournaments?

    Bayern beat Barca 7-0 ’13
    Real Beat Bayern 5-0 ’14
    Germany beat Portugal 4-0 ’14

    Brazil beat Spain 3-1 ’13
    Holland beat Spain 5-1 ’14

    2) Can tiki-taka work without a fully functioning Xavi and Iniesta?

    Spain’s mode was to lock down opponents so it could win 1-0 or 0-0 on penalties.
    Barcelona’s mode was to win 3-1 with 2 goals by Messi and one goal conceded on a counter.

    As long as both controlled the midfield it didn’t matter what the opponent’s style was because they wouldn’t get a chance to use it. Once the midfield is lost, then we see that Spain and Barca can be beat by many styles that we didn’t see before because before last year most teams didn’t have a chance to impose their style, just defend and hope for a counter.

    3) Why didn’t Cesc go to Man U to link up with RVP and play under Van Gaal?

    Some say he went to Chelsea for his love. Some say for trophies. I say he made a bad decision.

    4) How could video technology actually work with offsides and penalties?

    I’m want to be open minded and I hate the diving for victories, but won’t it just in the end make refs call fewer penalties? I don’t think refs call too many penalties just not the ones that I think are the right ones. It would be interesting to match any 10 penalties called for the rest of the tournament with the 10 top penalty claims that are not and ask neutral officials which were penalties. My guess is that the results would be disheartening.

    I don’t see why giving reds for clear dives after the games wouldn’t be a good start, but it also doesn’t change the fact that almost every player has been told to fall down in the box if only slightly touched, and any player that doesn’t at this point is doing his team a disservice. Here’s a good article on how the U.S. team is coming to terms with diving:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/do-the-right-thing-team-usa-and-take-a-dive-165054057.html

  2. agar2515 says:

    God “tiki-taka” is criminally overused. Have some posession? Oh must be tiki Taka. It’s not “dead” it just needs a rejuvenation. The abortion Spain put out wasn’t tiki taka.

  3. dl says:

    Spain looked like Barca. Del Bosque has had the same difficulties making tough calls as Barca’s management — 4 years ago Xavi backed by Busquets and Alonso could boss the midfield, but this year? Not a chance. After 4+ years of non-stop playing, the players are utterly depleted, and honestly look like they would just rather be on the beach. I can’t say I blame them.

  4. Death of tiki taka? When did Spain the Tiki-Taka style in that match? If what I saw was correct, then they were playing with a style trying to add more width to the side. That cost teh tiki-taka strategy. There were times in first half itself, when Holland was playing the passing football better.

    Diego Costa cannot fit into the tiki-taka style, that’s simple! It is easy to blame everything on Iniesta and Xavi. I thought Xavi was decent but was never offered any outlet in front of him. Iniesta was pretty poor except that brilliant through ball to Silva, just before Holland’s equaliser. By the way Xavi also had 2-3 through ball, had Messi been there would have been goals.

    The real problem for Spain’s problem, apart from the formation and tactic issue was Busquets. He simply disappeared. And that is always happening with Barca. When he disappears, Xavi simply don’t have any outlet and struggles. Nor did that guy named azpilicueta helped.

    There is a campaign against Xavi here for sometime. At least be frank. Xavi wasn’t Spain’s problem that night. If everyone else around him play like crap, he can’t do anything.

  5. barca96 says:

    https://twitter.com/jordzbarca/status/478554488673157120/photo/1

    Looks like Pedro could become a model after his retirement :)
    Perfect poses with a great charm.

  6. PrinceYuvi says:

    World cup article.
    Awesome.
    Thanks lev.
    Hail the static spain.

  7. ciaran says:

    So a couple of comments from Cesc are pretty interesting.
    Firstly, he said that he asked to leave but Bartomeu tried to block it. He said that his statistics were good but not good enough in big matches. Fair enough.
    Secondly he said that Xavi and Puyol have decided to step aside for family reasons and he and Valdes decided to leave for professional reasons.

    Interesting and the first real sign that Xavi may leave. If it does happen then our midfield will look something like this – Busquets, Masch, Iniesta, Rakitic & Rafinha with question marks over Sergi Roberto, Song and JDS.
    Sergi would benefit from a loan and JDS needs to move on to restart his own career. I think Song will move on and I’d be happy for him. I think he could be useful but he could do better for another team.

  8. Kxevin says:

    Someone suggested a World Cup drinking game, where every time tiki taka is misused, you take a shot of something. The idea was abandoned over concerns about alcohol poisoning.

    Spain got its ass whipped in the exact same ways that Barça got its ass whipped. It is no coincidence that the rise and fall, such as it is, of Spain coincides with that of Barça. The core of both attacks is the same.

    Teams have figured out that Busquets makes the engine go. So you attack him, and the rest becomes little guys with ball skills, isolated. I think (hope) that it’s part of what Enrique is thinking in renewing Mascherano and signing CBs so that Mascherano doesn’t have to play there. Having that extra layer and moving Busquets up the pitch wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    Spain will advance after much hand-wringing and anguish, however, and they will right their ship. As with Barça, the old man ain’t dead yet.

    — France Football has a rather extensive investigative piece in which they allege that Rosell and Perez combined with others to be a part of the sullied WC ’22 effort.

    In related news, two Barça board members have stepped down, though one is staying with the club even though she isn’t on the board. Rumor is that there are more to follow.

    And speaking of more to follow, depending upon how the Rosell court testimony goes, there might or might not be charges to come against Bartomeu.

    — Fabregas said that he wanted to leave the club for a variety of reasons, etc, blablabla, and no, Messi did not try to talk him out of it.

    — Rakitic is officially official, as is the two-year loan of Denis Suarez. No official mention is made of any buy clauses, though respected journos insist that such a thing exists. So who knows?

  9. barca96 says:

    Cesc: “Xavi and Puyol decided to take a step aside, to be closer to their families, to move away from all the pressure.” [marca]

    I don’t understand why Xavi was included. It’s not like Xavi is retiring. Rumors has it that he will move to Qatar (which he really shouldn’t as he is still top class, at least 1 more season at the top). Qatar isn’t it Catalonia unless he moved his families to Qatar already :)

    • PrinceYuvi says:

      Money problem. Family members who manage his assets screwed up apparently.

    • Jim says:

      Why would Cesc say anything about Xavi when he knows there’s nothing been said ? Is this in revenge for Pique’s comment ? I get the feeling his leaving was less than amicable on both sides. One thing’s for sure, he’ll get no love from me after joining Mourinho.

      Not sure of the truth of the Xavi leaving rumours but if he does and Busi moves forward, for me we move down a notch. Busi is no faster than Xavi, unproven in an advanced role, Masch has yet to show he can hack it at DM for Barca, Rafinha may be the first youngster to impress me coming into our side right away but nothing’s sure and Rakatic will take at least a season to adapt. Neither Roberto, JDS fill me with hope at the moment and I’m sure Song will be on his way. This can’t have been planned. It must be all to do with needing money which, if true, is a shame and no way to leave the club after his career.

      • Jim says:

        Still thinking about this – if Cesc knows Xavi is leaving did he still feel he would be behind the others under new management or was it that he knew he’d never hack it here ? Also, his choice of Chelsea and Mourinho almost seems deliberate. Strange. This is what silly season does to one’s mind I suppose…

      • georgjorge says:

        “It must be all to do with needing money which, if true, is a shame and no way to leave the club after his career.”

        I like Xavi, but money-wise, it’s rather hard to feel sympathy for someone who at 34 has made so much more money than almost anyone else on this planet. If millions of Euros every year didn’t give him the means to achieve a comfortable standard of living, I’m not sure what the FC Barcelona could have done to make it otherwise.

  10. Inamess says:

    I am still trying to figure out what’s behind Qatar’s obsession to become a major force in world football. Here’s an article that tries to get to the bottom of it. The weirdest thing is something called “Aspire Football” which is like some James Bond villain took over La Masia and was trying to use it to take over the world.

    “From the beginning the “Aspire football dreams” project has been viewed by some as a global recruiting operation for overseas players who will be given citizenship and play in the Qatari national team but Aspire’s director general, Ivan Bravo, formerly Real Madrid’s director of strategy, denies it. Aspire claims the programme is pure social responsibility, helping to improve the life chances of young people in poor parts of the world.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/nov/18/qatar-barcelona-psg-world-cup-2022

  11. ciaran says:

    Rumours today suggest that Barca are looking at Sporting & Argentina defender Marcos Rojo. He’s very promising; good with the ball, versatile in that he plays LB for Argentina and CB for Sporting, very physical and would be our fastest central defender by some distance. The only downside is that he isn’t very experienced but that could make sense with the rumours that our talks for Marquinhos have hit a brick wall. We wouldn’t buy two inexperienced players especially with Bartra already on the books but buying two older players gives just as much issues in terms of playing time.
    I like the idea of Rojo and a more experienced but top class centre back. I won’t continue to beat the Benatia drum but as I’ve said many times any one of Benatia, Garay & Hummels and I’ll be very happy indeed.

  12. kosby says:

    Getting ready for the Neymar show ! Watching him play with Brazil reminds me a little of Ronaldinho…his game seems so much joyful…

  13. FCBarcelona says:

    What do you guys think about the back four of both Germany and Belgium? These two teams use a backline of four defenders, all four being most comfortably when played in central positions.

    Germany started with Boateng – Mertesacker – Hummels – Höwedes. I know that both Boateng and Höwedes more or less have been converted into right back and left back, the latter seemed really enjoying himself contributing to the attack vs Portugal.

    Belgium played Alderweireld – Van Buyten – Kompany – Vertonghen. As expected, there was little overlap from Alderweireld and Vertonghen. Playing full-backs (which they unfortunately dont have) could have created more 1v1 for Hazard – plus better link-up play – and created more space in the middle area.

    I think it will have more consequences for the Belgians than the Germans, but you may convince me otherwise.

  14. Jim says:

    Wow. Rotten performance from Brazil so far. They’re going to need something special from Neymar – again. Can there be a worse front man than Fred ?

    On a positive note, what about Rafa ?

    • Inamess says:

      Gutsy effort by Mexico. Looks like they played their plan well. Good discipline in defending and then going for a golazo from outside the box.

      Also, Marcelo is great player for Brazil, but did anyone else see him appeal for the penalty before going down. It was like a singer taking a bow in the middle of the song.

  15. PrinceYuvi says:

    Luiz is brilliant.

  16. G6O says:

    All the flaws of that Brazilian team were exposed today.

    No world-class central forward, no creativity in central midfield when Oscar does not play there, and no spark of genius from the bench.

    That said, they can still win it, because top teams often play them in a way that team is well set up to take advantage of. But it’s still baffling how Brazil went from such an overabundance of world-class strikers and playmakers that the likes of Giovanne Elber and Jardel (at a time when he was scoring better than a goal a game) could not get anywhere near the first team, to a situation in which the best they have is Jo and Fred and the only great creative midfielder is Oscar….

  17. ciaran says:

    The Xavi thing gained a little more traction this evening, Dan Petrescu the manager of Al Arabi has said that Xavi has signed a pre-contract with them and will be joining them.
    It looks like we’ll find out soon enough. Apparently Zubi, Bartomeu and Xavi’s agent had a meeting this evening in Barcelona about the future.

  18. ciaran says:

    On another note, Guillermo ‘Memo’ Ochoa, Mexico’s goalkeeper had a stormer versus Brazil and his stock has risen enormously in a matter of hours.
    We were reportedly offered him on a free contract a few weeks ago and to be honest I don’t think that Bravo is €15m better than him, especially for the back up role. I feel trusting ter Stegen and Masip is a good idea and picking up a decent free transfer is a great idea.

  19. norden says:

    Btw, to the over-misuse of tiki-taka.

    Before the Italy match, it didn’t take long for an expert in the studio to say “catenaccio”. 40 years after the system has been abandoned.

    That’s probably a record breaker :)

  20. Davour says:

    Interesting to see Belgium being stifled by a parked bus. Lack of movement, anyone? But also interesting to see the ability to change the game through substitutions – as has been discussed here extensively. Fellaini came running into the box like another Keita!

    On Ochoa – reports are that he is extremely uneven in Ligue 1. Perhaps not what we need for a team in transition.

  21. It was interesting to see Spain getting hammered in the way they did.
    Unbelievable how a man who doesn’t even start for club, can start for country. Talk about favoritism for Casillas.
    With this loss, it is so crystal clear that spain’s successes were so closely linked with Barca’s. And its no surprise that the decline of one has also coincided with the decline of the other.

    in a way, i hope spain crashes out in the group stages. Our spaniards can come back home sooner and get a real break.

    • Peter says:

      in a way, i hope spain crashes out in the group stages. Our spaniards can come back home sooner and get a real break.

      Selfishly put, but may also be what is needed. Especially if it clears the way forward for two-three particular South American teams. ;)

  22. Peter says:

    I hope this will not be taken as an attempt to hijack the comments, since I really think it has a lot to do with how Barcelona and Spain have performed recently.

    Can Barcelona afford to play 4-2-3-1?
    Actually, this question may be badly postulated. We might as well ask “Can Barcelona afford not to play 4-2-3-1, at least in some important games?” With the current starting players of FC Barcelona playing for their national teams, one notices a common thing: Neymar plays behind the main striker, in his case Fred. Electric Sanchez has excelled in his recent performances for Chile as a heavy-hitting creator and playmaker. Messi admitted as early as last year’s Remuntada against Madrid that he plays better behind a striker, as he often does in Albiceleste and as he did when he scored the goal against Bosnia.
    As quite a few commentators posted, there was also another common theme, sadly it was between the now infamous Bayern semi-final and the recent “Hollandaise Handful” of Spain: an overwhelmed midfield due to Busquets being the main target of a concentrated effort. Barcelona’s 4-3-3 relies on Busquets performing in order to let the little men(Xavi and Iniesta, at 1.84 Rakitic will be hardly the hobbit, and Rafinha is pushing 1.8 with the muscle to match) do their magic in midfield. Overwhelming him resulted in a midfield wide open to attacks through the center, due in part to bombing wingbacks that leave the CBs wide. The fact is that the current system of Barcelona puts way too much stress and wear on Busquets. He has to drop back to take the ball from the CBs, he has to be in the midfield just behind the center line in order to cover the whole width of the pitch, and he’s also needed on the other side in order to disrupt the opponent’s midfield play and do that voodoo that he does so well, which got him the nick “Octobussi”. That is entirely too much workload for one single player, and as seen removing him from the equation leaves a Broadway towards the box. Maybe the signing of Rakitic was done at least in part for exactly for that purpose, to give a younger, stronger and more physical presence in the midfield to give Busquets a smaller zone to cover. However, there is one more similarity between La Roja and Barcelona. The successful Roja and successful Barcelona had more aerial presence and a more conservative defence. La Roja of 2010 did not have two wingbacks. As a matter of fact, the World Cup final had Pique and Puyol as the CBs, with Ramos as RB. Barcelona used Pique, Puyol and Abidal, who rotated every time Dani Alves went forward, and kept three players at the back, which allowed Busquets to stay in his zone. Today Barcelona has Alba, Adriano and Dani Alves.

    With all this put together, it seems that the 4-2-3-1 scheme offers a solution. Neymar, Messi and Alexis Sanchez all get to drop a little deeper, which would have to open at least a little bit of space between the lines, and they would get a reference point; Busquets would get a partner in midfield to share the load and shorten the zone; Mascherano would get to play back in midfield; the defence would be better protected due to the double pivote, especially if only one wingback is sent forth at any given time; the whole team would have better aerial presence in both boxes and the numerous crosses towards the box may find a target. Furthermore, with Messi, Alexis and Neymar all performing similar tasks, they could play merry hell with a defence trying to keep track of them.
    This reasoning is plausible, if we think about the current roster of the midfield (Rakitic, Rafinha, Iniesta, Mascherano, Busquets, Rafinha, Xavi, Song and Sergi Roberto), the persistent rumors about Xavi going to the Midfield East, and the comparative lack of rumors about Song leaving. Granted, there are about two weeks until the transfer window officially starts, and lots of these players are in Brazil, meaning that talks and negotiations take a step back.
    What would be the deficiencies of Barcelona playing in 4-2-3-1?
    First, the other side may refuse to honor the threat and may play even deeper, with their CFs marking Messi, whereas everybody else drops further back to guard the approaches.
    Second, that system may not work. Messi and Neymar don’t help much with defending, it may result in Messi being required to both score and create. Neymar and Messi wouldn’t be recipients of forward passes, but creators of those, unless Busquets shares his line not with Mascherano, but with Rakitic(who would be playing as a kind of a box-to-box mid).
    Third, think again about the second.

    However, his hardly means an abandoning of the Barcelona 4-3-3 and taking it to the garbage dump of football history. On the contrary, Barcelona would have the ability to play with its normal system, just with Rakitic or Rafinha in midfield instead of one of Xaviesta. A number 9 like, I don’t know, Higuain for example, could play as a wide striker in the Sanchez spot, or make it a lopsided 4-3-1-2 with Messi behind the 9 and one wingback bombing up the empty flank. Even going the whole 9 meters, a 4-3-3 with Rakitic, Mascherano and Busquets playing in front of a defence that has say Alba, Bartra, Pique and Marquinhos(why not? :D ), the 4-3-3 remains a potent force.

    What Barcelona as a team, Barcelona as a football club, Barcelona as fans and supporters cannot allow is to remain stuck in a moment that it can’t get out of. Otherwise, the legacy of Barcelona would be that of an exemplary squad that remained by the pool gazing in its own reflection until it died of dehydration and starvation.

    I’d welcome everybody to share their opinions, and I personally am looking forward to what Ciaran and his crystal ball have to say. :P

    • Davour says:

      There is obviously a problem with Busquets’ role, as you point out. I have been thinking about the possibilities for 4-2-3-1, too, but cannot seem to fit our players well enough. For one, I can’t seem to fit both Iniesta och Neymar in this line-up, unless Messi moves to the right spot – which would require Sanchez to be the striker up front (which might work, who knows?). Also, I think Rakitic would work better in 4-3-3, as I think – from what I’ve seen – the holding midfielder role is not his best position (despite playing this in the NT).

      I believe a variation of 4-3-3 (like the mentioned 4-3-1-2, or 4-3-2-1) would be preferred. With that bombing of the flank you mention – assuming Marquinhos (right) or Mathieu (left) will cover for Alba/Alves/Cuadrado – a midfield which would take greater defensive responsibility to help out Busquets, and a development of the counter-attack ability to vary our strategy.

      • Gekko64 says:

        excellent post by Peter but I think Davour is right. 4-2-3-1 wouldn’t suit Iniesta and Neymar/Messi don’t defend enough to be used in midfield. the way to go seems the 4-3-1-2 used by Argentina in the second half. it’s a very minor change from the current 4-3-3, but it should give Messi the space he needs to be devastating. with Cesc and Xavi out, and Rakitic in, the midfield rotation will feature way more physical players which should ensure that the team is balanced between attack and defense, unlike the last couple years. Alba and Adri/Dani will ensure that width isn’t lacking, since Alexis/Neymar will be playing closer to the opponent goal ( which could actually be an added plus )

    • ciaran says:

      Well, I better live up to my reputation…

      I’ll look at a few things tactically.
      Firstly the 4-2-3-1 you mentioned. As Davour says not all of our players will work best in this scenario. I won’t go too much into the defense as 4 defenders is the way we’ve virtually always set up. The only question will be the use of fullbacks. The midfield and forward lines are the most interesting.
      Double pivots in our system are not necessarily a bad thing but the use of the playmaker is more important. Messi as the central playmaker in a 4-2-3-1 means that all other players will have to play a more defensive system due to his lack of pressing and defensive play. Neymar doesn’t lend himself to this system on the left and it would leave no room for Iniesta. Alexis could play this role on the right wing but playing dangerous players further back is a misuse of their talents. Neymar also plays best with less defensive shackles and is unlikely to be at his best as the central striker.
      Pedro could play this system but I think he should be sold and Deulofeu certainly doesn’t track back enough for the system. Iniesta as a central playmaker could work but only at the expense of Messi as playing Messi on the right is again a waste of his talents.
      The midfield two would be two of Busquets, Masch & Rakitic but possession would drop considerably, especially without Xavi & Iniesta. The issue then would be that we would spend more time defending than we normally do with 4 attacking players on the pitch. We would turn into the likes of Real Madrid.

      Not to spend the whole post dissecting your idea because most of our players perform well in the 4-2-3-1’s employed by their national teams but each of those teams is set up to make the most out of those players. Neymar in the Brazilian 4-2-3-1 is different to what he would be in ours as we would also have to find room for Messi, Iniesta, Alexis etc.

      For me the only suitable system is a 4-3-1-2 with three players behind Messi in midfield, that still can include 1 attacking player like Iniesta but most importantly the width would be primarily given by the fullbacks. Spreading our forward line across the width of the pitch means that our midfielders have to cover too much area.
      To make the most of Alexis you play him closer to goal. To make the most of Neymar you give him a player to play off. To make the most of Messi you give him the ball and give him options. Playing them spread across the width of the pitch does a disservice to each of them.

      People here are starting to blame Busquets and while I agree that he still has room to improve he has been the only defensive player in our front six all too often. Xavi strolls back, Iniesta roams around and only Alexis and Pedro defend. We concede a goal and then look at the last player who made a mistake.
      The defensive solidity that we need can’t be solved by only a personnel change. Replacing Xavi in the lineup with Masch gives us a different set of problems but doesn’t eliminate them.

      A midfield trio, with only one attacking player, covering a smaller area gives us defensive solidity. It would give us more control and possession and free up some of the defensive work from Messi. On different occasions the make up of this line of three could be very defensive or attacking but we will still need another midfielder if Xavi leaves. Rafinha as strong and physical as he is for his size is still a better player playing further forward and should be backup for Messi not Iniesta on most occasions.

      • Davour says:

        Well dissected; I think we’re in agreement, here. Levon questioned Neymar’s ability to play in front of Messi, and he might very well be right. But with the players we have, I still think this is our best tactic (while individual responsibilities and zones can be discussed). And this would be ‘true’ regardless of us playing with (I hope) Alexis or a hypothetical (but unlikely) Higuain.

        On Busquets – I, at least (and many others, I think), did not mean HE is has problem; rather that he HAS a problem, being exposed and having to deal with an unreasonable amount of tasks.

    • abuiyad says:

      Could we afford to play a 3-man backline if we have BOTH a double pivote in Masch and Busi, and a more physical midfield with Rakitic and Iniesta/Rafinha. I’d dare say this would still allow us a better defence by means of a more physical and combative midfield, while retaining our traditional 3 upfront.

      • ciaran says:

        We are struggling enough to buy one centreback so even though I like your optimism it is not going to happen. A double pivot of Busi & Masch covering a back three with fullbacks is the exact same as what we were playing this season.

        I am still unsure as to the long term success of a Busquets Mascherano partnership.

  23. Lord Eddard Stark aka Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one says:

    4-3-1-2. A slight variation of the 4-3-3.

    The 3 man midfield can line up in many ways.

    Rakitic – Busquets – Iniesta
    Rafinha – Mascherano – Iniesta
    Rakitic – Busquets – Koke

    Then the hole being occupied by Messi just behind the two forwards in Neymar and Alexis. Good thing about this system is that both Alexis and Neymar can play in the hole too for some games.

  24. PrinceYuvi says:

    Some fantastic comments. Kudos to you guys.

  25. barca96 says:

    Messi-esque goal from Robben and straight after that a Zidane-esque goal from Cahill. Entertaining match so far.

  26. barca96 says:

    Even though Martins is Feyenoord player but it’s sad to see a player getting injured.

    It seems that he’s unconscious from the fall and not injured from the tackle.

  27. barca96 says:

    What a match! NL scores and OZ scores the next minute and OZ scores and the Dutch scores right away. Beautiful game of football.

  28. ciaran says:

    Australia are playing better football than Netherlands. Netherlands only gameplan is to get the ball to Robben or van Persie. I could easily see Chile beating this Netherlands team. It’s a shame because every world cup I look forward to seeing Netherlands as they usually play great football. I find it hard to imagine that Robben and RVP will be able to bail them out in every match.

  29. barca96 says:

    Casillas
    Azpi-Pique-Ramos-Alba
    Busquets-Martinez-Xavi-Iniesta
    Costa-Pedro

    That’s the line up I’ll roll with if I was Del Bosque.
    Speed in Pedro and just the fact that Alonso isn’t on the pitch to take that extra few touches.

  30. barca96 says:

    Ooh van Persie should’ve gotten his 2nd yellow there.

  31. ciaran says:

    In other news Laurent Blanc, PSG’s manager has said that Marquinhos is going nowhere seemingly confirming the recent rumours that talks had stopped. He also admitted interest in Dani Alves by stating how good he is.

    Ochoa’s agent said that Barca have contacted him about a deal. It’s either true or a ploy to get more teams interested.

  32. FCBarcelona says:

    Australia are really unlucky to not have won that match. They deserved to lead at half-time. A tiny bit more composure and they still would have got a really good chance to make it to the next round. Oh, that pass from Cahill on that 3 v 2 was such a waste. And before the goal of Van Persie, the 3 – 1 seemed to be a sealed deal (I think it was the chance of Leckie). After that they lacked the energy and Holland sneaked away with the three points, which most definitely will take them to the next round.

    I think the Dutch seemed as good as – one could say as bad as – their match versus Spain. The vulnarabities of Holland shown against Spain were demonstrated even more by this Australian side. Australia applied good pressure – which Spain did not really do, to be honest – and the Dutch midfield seemed almost non-existing. They bravely played 1-on-1 on the midfield, which may have been key to their good 1st half. However, that pressure was always going to worn Australia out if goals didn’t come (that 3-1 surely would have given them extra legs). Sneijder should have some serious neck issues after watching his team build-up the play. It’s a shame Australia lacked the pace on all three forward positions, they could have hurt that backline so much more.

    I was expecting to see a 1-4-3-3 from Holland, starting that line-up should have given them more options to switch play more easily. It is said that the players wanted to stuck with the formation against Spain. The Dutch media were euphoric after that win and expected a walkover. I’m really curious about the performance of this Dutch side in the knockout stage.

    • Levon says:

      Australia was unlucky not to get a draw from that match.

      Much talk about Holland’s loss of style, but we simply don’t have the same quality of players anymore. The big problem is that we can’t develop players like we used to, because so many get lured to England or Spain at a young age. Scary thing is that RVP and Robben are 30 years already…

      • FCBarcelona says:

        Hi Levon, I think I may assume you’re Dutch (so am I). First of all, I would like to thank you for having this discussion. I will try my best to make myself clear in English (I find it hard to discuss in English, so tell me if you do not understand).

        We all had this discussion of loss of style (if you still live in Holland for sure you have). I think this is right, but I think the main point of this discussion is wrong. I can sympathize with the decision of Van Gaal to change the formation, but I do not understand it. Our national youth system from the Dutch federation (KNVB opleidingsplan) gives children from u. 12 – u. 21 “football education” in a 1-4-3-3 formation. They are learned to play with position of the ball, with wingers, etc.

        I know Van Gaal also wants to do this, but he thinks he can’t. That struck me, because he selected the 23 (!) best footballers of out country – who most presumably have played with that same style in the youth ranks. If I’m right, he played this 1-4-3-3 throughout the whole qualification. Besides that, he admitted that learning how to play in a 1-5-3-2 formation would cost an enormous amount of time which he didn’t have. I do not know how they would have performed in their “homegrown” formation, that would only be guessing.

        The main point for this switch has been a more practical approach (to win and process as far as possible), but I think – and Van Gaal for sure has to think that – this team has not enough quality to win it. There is enough talent, but they do not have enough experience for this tournament – Van Gaal should have known that at his appointment and I think he did. This team does heavily rely on Robben and Van Persie (how many matches did they win without them?), and as we have learned from our beloved Barca, that will not even win you Championships if you have Lionel Messi.

        Van Gaal may have been right for now, but even he knows that Holland doesn’t live up to their standards and without some luck they could have already been on the plane home.

    • Jim says:

      Couldn’t agree more !

      We’re at the moment reduced to a shoot out with an anarchic team that could go either way. Not what I look forward to watching

  33. Kxevin says:

    And new voice Lord Eddard Stark wins “Best Handle.” As a matter of fact, the award has been retired.

  34. Jamal102 says:

    Xabi Alonso contributes nothing.

  35. This is what happens when you chose eleven based on Madrid media.Most of the players who played against Dutch were crap, but still they put the entire blame on Xavi. Without Xavi they have no control in midfield against Chile. They should have picked Villa ahead of Costa. he and Pedro could have worked some thing out. And by the way starting Martinez ahead of Pique is stupid. they should have taken off Busquets/Alonso and brought in Martinez in midfield.

  36. Jim says:

    2-0.

    If they can’t see they are needing a leader on the pitch and more control in midfield I give up. Who is actually playing in midfield ?

    • ciaran says:

      Makes you worry about an Iniesta led midfield doesn’t it?
      Give me Vidal and his engine and I’d be delighted

      • Jim says:

        If I knew what role Iniesta has been asked to play I could answer that Ciaran. Can you work out who the playmaker is meant to be ? The double pivot is a nightmare, largely because of Alonso’s nightmare. But it means there are two players in the position where Xavi would normally pick up the ball. Iniesta can’t get back in there to do that job.

        There must be a little satisfaction somewhere within the much maligned midfielder on the bench at the chaos that is unfolding.

        If Spain are going to go down they’d be better going down with the midfield they know. However it looks like Koke. Not his fault but if this to help Diego Costa I have my doubts about it.

      • Doug says:

        It seemed as if Silva was in the middle more than Iniesta. I’m not sure why they were lined up like that.

        You’d rather have Vidal than Iniesta? Great motor, but average skill and a terrific diver.

    • stefan2k says:

      Benching Xavi … worst decision ever

  37. ciaran says:

    Casillas really should have caught that shot. Fair play to Chile though, they are braver and better so far

  38. Jim says:

    Great ball from Iniesta.

  39. ciaran says:

    Atletico should close the sale of Costa to Chelsea before long because he is proving his lack of quality more and more with every performance. One good season doesn’t make a world class player, especially if there is a long drought in the middle of it.

  40. Peter says:

    So which of those two is more suitable?

    *www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLJllk-0o6c
    or
    *www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi8vJ_lMxQI

    This is the way the cycle ends
    This is the way the cycle ends
    This is the way the cycle ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

  41. Kxevin says:

    Spain out, and deservedly so. So, so many Barça analogs there. Both hung on to a successful team for too long. Risk-averse. Now wholesale changes required, again as with Barça.

    Xavi and Pique were dumped. Turned out they weren’t the problem. It’s deeper, just as it was with Barça. People are saying that wholesale changes aren’t required, but I disagree. Now is not the time for subtlety. It’s too late.

  42. dl says:

    As with most great champions, the very qualities that contribute so much to their success inevitably result in their downfall. That and some spectacularly out of form players (pique, casillas, costa), exhausted players (xavi, iniesta, busquets, ramos), absence of leadership (no puyol), and tired tactics. So happy for Chile. After the Albiceleste, they’re my hoped for champions.

  43. norden says:

    From 1-5 to 0-2 – it’s a progress :)

  44. Davour says:

    At least it becomes even more obvious how important Xavi has been to sustain the possession-based style. But today I am not sure he would have made any difference; probably he would have suffered from the incredible pressing from the Chileans. Hat’s off to this golden generation – but it was time.

    Iniesta looked tired, apart from a few brilliant moves. Still, I think he might still contribute brilliantly further back. Perhaps his days as AM have ended; still a wonderful footballer, though.

    Man, if we let Sanchez go I will cry. Not that his game was spectacular in terms of technical brilliance – but the energy, resolve, drive and amount of work he puts in, COMBINED with technical brilliance. We need need to tap into that…

  45. Kxevin says:

    Oh, and Bravo is apparently done, for 12M. WhoScored made him MOTM for today’s match, btw. Cost is 12m, which is a very nice piece of business, which the club has done a lot of this summer.

    • Peter says:

      Awesome second half for Bravo(couldn’t watch the first :( ) and if you look at the hundreds of comments in MD you’d seriously think that Spain made the reversal of the century and won 5-2, with Bravo to blame for at least three of the goals.

      Looks like Xavi will be having that conversation with Lucho much sooner than expected… Well, at least Pique, Alba, Iniesta, Busquets, Pedro and Xavi will get a more than deserved month of holidays, and still have close to a month to prepare for the new season.

  46. G6O says:

    The great NTs that won multiple titles in a row in the past had a tournament like this after that. Brazil 1966, France 2002. The positive is that in both cases they were in the final four years later.

    The other relevant historical observation, and one that has not been discussed nearly enough IMO, is that the Dutch dominated with total football in the 1970s even though they did not win anything on the national team level, but the 1970s ended and then nobody played total football of the same kind again. And one of the reasons is that it takes very high level of execution from well-drilled players knowing each other very well at the peak of their abilities to play like that successfully. Оnce these conditions are no longer met, very wide cracks appear in the system

    • Davour says:

      True, G60. Spain has as a NT been extremely lucky to have Xavi and Iniesta playing together at Barcelona for a long time, knowing each other’s games like twins, almost. Combined with the brilliance of Messi, Alves Puyol in Barca, they could run the show in an almost (?) unprecedented manner. And, more impressively, without Messi at NT-level. Will there ever be such a duo/trio again, from the same country, remaining together in the same club, at that divine level? Not for another 40 years, at least…

  47. Peter says:

    What was Song thinking?!

  48. 86ed says:

    Realistic, oh dear what a miss. He took it too casually.

  49. 86ed says:

    Most are talking about the decline of Xavi and Iniesta. I would rather concentrate on Busquets’. He has lost pace; he was painfully slow anyway, but all this past season I have seen a clear decline. The only position he can play we any real merit is 4-3-3–he isn’t too bad with another deep lying playmaker beside him either, sure, but any place else and you can see his shortcomings. He doesn’t have stamina to press, nor Xavi’s vision of old; you can forget his even trying Iniesta’s water dancing. We played him in Xavi’s role this season just past and he was disastrous. Defence? Nope. Attacking midfielder? Can’t shoot, and usually misses easy chances like the one vs Chelsea. Never seem him on the wing, but he doesn’t have the physique for it, it seems to me.

    We have made him essentially chief ball distributor, so if he is pressured and loses the ball, we’re in trouble. His only two tools of protecting himself are the backpass to the keeper and pretending to have been shot every time an opposing player makes a challenge. His position will be obsolete, I believe, wishing the next couple of years.

    If we were to put him on the market, would fans be upset?

    • Thanks for pointing this out. I have always said Busquets drop is the actual problem. Against Dutch of all the players I thought Xavi played better. They should have removed Busquets and brought in Martinez in there and may be Koke for Alonso. Instead they took Xavi off and there was no control in middle after that.

      If you look at the Barca matches we struggled. We notice a common pattern, Xavi playing too deep. This is because Busquets is not offering him any outlet. Xavi will never pass to a guy if he can’t see a second pass from there. Which forces Xavi deep. Another problem in those matches was Busquets when pressured a bit always releases the ball to Xavi, even if Xavi is in a tricky position. That’s why see Xavi losing possession more these days.

      I am happy that Spain yesterday lost. At least those who say it’s time to replace Xavi with Koke understood that is no solution. They should have brought in Martinez in middle instead of Busquets, May be Koke for Alonso and Xavi playing his usual role. But then this eleven was picked by Madrid media.

      Iniesta was extremely poor throughout the two matches. Funny part was that still he created two gilt edged chances in both the matches. Even Xavi in the match against Dutch created two (if I am not wrong) clear cut scoring opportunity, but Costa squandered them both. For normal midfielders those are high performing noghts!

      I don’t think radical changes are required. What is required is to identify what’s not working.

      “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton

    • Gekko64 says:

      A good point indeed. Unfortunately Barça decided to put all their eggs in the Busi basket, a basket with many drawbacks. Physically weak, slow, bad header. He may fit Barça like a glove but come on, there’s no way in hell he’s better than Tourè and it’s arguable he’s even better than Masche as a DMF. Busi’s strengths are technical, and those would be best exploited as a CMF, but I’m not sure he can develop into a player that participates to the offense.

  50. kinukinu says:

    So many things were missing in Spain’s performance today, but the most notable absence, for me, was their lack of visible emotion after the loss. No one collapsed to the ground in despair, or pulled his shirt over his face in a fit of tears. There was no dramatic hugging and consoling, no displays of anger or frustration. They seemed almost blank after (and during) the game, slowly walking off the pitch as shells of their former selves. I can only imagine that they were absolutely mentally and physically exhausted to the point of being numb–too tired to be sad, too worn out to care. These players have had an insanely unrelenting run of football on the highest level for such a long stretch of years (many of them for club and country both), and now they need–and deserve–some rest.

    I wish it could have been a more dignified ending, especially for the likes of Xavi, Inesta and Casillas (not to mention Puyol)—lord knows they deserve to bow out gracefully instead of disgracefully. But life, and football, are imperfect. Maybe there’s some comfort in the fact that the shock 5-1 drubbing by the Dutch won’t be the last taste in their mouths—at least there is something romantic about going down to a hungry, passionate, deserving underdog Chile….

  51. BA says:

    Spain deservedly out. Chile ran themselves ragged, and their pressing was glorious to watch. Alexis Sanchez is a bloody brilliant footballer and to all those cules who shouted for his removal: you are wrong. you’re entitled to hold your opinion, but it’s wrong. we’re lucky he’s playing in our side, outside of the kind of position he plays for Chile (and played for Udinese) where he’s been totally brilliant.

    we’re bonkers to not throw big money at Arturo Vidal this summer. surely he has to be a priority signing, if we’re revamping our midfield. yes, we don’t have an central “organizing” midfielder on our radar, but the sheer energy and quality of Vidal, coupled with that of Rakitic and the moving up of Mascherano, would leave us with a midfield utterly different from what we’ve possessed for 10 years but also incredibly dangerous. i for one would love to see a dangerous Barça.

    people are declaring the “end of tiki-taka” have a fundamental misunderstanding of what that concept as it was popularized by Guardiola’s Barça actually is. yes, short and quick passes and an emphasis on possession but *just as importantly* intense zonal pressing when out of possession, particularly by the forward 6. it’s that kind of pressing that have made teams like Chile and Dortmund so ferocious and difficult to play against*, and it was a key component of Barcelona’s success for Pep’s first 3 seasons; only after the team tired and lost focus did we start to slide into more laborious, unpenetrative possession.

    (and, indeed, the kind of pressing that del Bosque doesn’t seem to understand how to implement at the national level despite literally the best players on the planet at his disposal) Spain, with their players, playing like Chile does would not have been knocked out of this World Cup. more’s the pity.

  52. barca96 says:

    It was here or probably on another forum where somebody said that Xavi shouldn’t play vs a high pressing Chile.

    Xavi is exactly what is needed, to keep the ball. Poor Xavi gets blamed for everything.

    Pique was bad, a bit worse than Ramos but he should’ve still started at CB.

    Alonso is the one that should’ve gone out no matter what. Torres is another one that shouldn’t be anywhere near the squad. Unbelievable.

    This is how del Bosque should’ve started with

    Casillas
    Azpi-Pique-Ramos-Alba
    Busquets-Martinez-Xavi-Iniesta
    Costa-Pedro

    And put Koke in for Martinez if he needed more attacking threat and Cesc for Costa. Villa could play a role too.

    Now the worse part is that del Bosque will play Xavi in the next match since it will be Xavi’s last match but it will unfortunately be a meaningless match whereby the team’s performance will be below par and once again, Xavi will get the blame. The man who started it all. Sigh

    To make matters worse, he might leave Barca because of all the blame he gets. The man is a living legend.

    • I think he needs to push for a free transfer this summer. For all his service the club at least should do that. Then see what are his options. I am pretty sure there will be a host of clubs looking to sign him. If available on a free transfer, I have a feeling Manchester City might actually sign him.

      Those who believe that his era is over is completely mistaken. But may be it’s an end at Barca. Barca fans have been blaming him for all their problem for past few season. It’s time to leave and make them realize what they had. It won’t happen at Barca. Here if someone gets pregnant, the immediate tendency is to blame Xavi!

    • mohit says:

      The way Xavi is treated by fans and media is truly astonishing. Here is a player who has dedicated a life to FC Barcelona and Spain and yet, he is made the scapegoat. He wasn’t even the reason Spain lost 1-5 to Netherlands! I suppose, he isn’t the media’s or fans’ darling as Iniesta or Messi or Casillas. I say, good on Xavi to leave the club now and I’m sure he had a good laugh while on the bench today.

    • barsa says:

      Or maybe the coach should have thought like Pep by taking advantage of player versatility, challenging their minds by experiments thus capturing their focus, and surprising the opponents:

      G-Casillas (no choice, Reina was not really able to play in games leading to this)

      RB-Ramos (I like him better than Azpilicueta, has experience, better defense, more attacking intent)

      RCB-Pique (can play from defense, combines well with Pique)

      LCB-Martinez (can be the anchor that covers for Alba’s runs)

      LB-Alba (no choice)

      DMF-Busquets (for this position he’s more creative than Martinez)

      MF-Xavi (sets the attacking tempo for the game, links up better with Busquets and Iniesta than Silva, to be subbed by Koke after 60 minutes)

      AMF-Iniesta (best link-up play with Xavi, makes better darting passes and runs from here)

      RF-Pedro (but I miss Navas more)

      CF-Costa (better link up play with Villa, can make attacking thrusts when Koke comes in when opponents are tired)

      LF-Villa (to be subbed at the 50th minute for Torres: I’m picking this for del Bosque just because he likes him)

      Thus,

      Casillas

      Ramos-Pique-Martinez-Alba
      Busquets
      Xavi—–Iniesta
      Pedro—–Costa—–Villa

      Then,

      Ramos-Pique-Martinez-Alba
      Busquets
      Koke—–Iniesta
      Pedro—–Torres—–Costa

      With an extra substitution for contingencies.

      But I’m really curious as to what Pep would really do.

      • Inamess says:

        Graham Hunter also lobbied for Villa to get the start against Chile. I don’t know how he would have done against the Chilean attack dogs, but it might have been worth a try.
        Meanwhile, Hunter is in the middle of a marketing nightmare, given that he now has to hock his book on La Roja.

        http://blog.paddypower.com/2014/06/17/graham-hunter-david-villa-is-a-man-from-la-rojas-past-he-may-need-to-also-be-their-man-of-destiny/

      • I would have gone with this simple line up

        —————–Casillas —————-

        Jaunffran——Pique —–Ramos———Alba

        ————Xavi————Martinez——–

        Silva—————————–Koke

        —————Iniesta—————-

        ————–Villa——————

        That packs the midfield and controls the game.

        • barsa says:

          I was thinking also of packing the midfield. But I was thinking that Spain’s attacking intent should be communicated. A lot of times Pep urged his team to be courageous. With this, I feel that Chile would second guess their attacking nature knowing that Chile would really be susceptible at the back. I feel that Martinez is not creative enough and Azpilicueta / Juanfran / Silva not cold-blooded enough to intimidate the opponent. On the other hand, Koke fits.

          • I think a formation with Iniesta as an extreme attacking midfielder would have been better. Martinez alone may not be creative but I feel a double pivot of Xavi and Martinez could be brilliant especially with a fierce Koke in front of them.

  53. Inamess says:

    For the life of me I just don’t get how now football players, who make millions of dollars each year, are now the most persecuted lot on the planet. Xavi will be making 8.5 million to play for 6 months in Quatar for the next three years. After years of non-stop wear and tear its a good deal, and I hardly think he is leaving because Barcelona fans don’t appreciate him.

    Similarly, when Keita left on a “free transfer”, it was because of a clause in his contract that he had to start half his games. He made 14 million per year playing in a Chinese League.

  54. petog4realz says:

    Greatest midfielder ever. XAVI HERNANDEZ. If you don’t appreciate him,you don’t know anything about the game of football

    • 86ed says:

      Two words. Andrea Pirlo.

      He’s older than Xavi and has suffered no decline. Perhaps that’s because he’s less dogmatic than Xavi, who’s obsessed with the side pass. Pirlo also doesn’t equate meaningless possession with winning and he certainly doesn’t blame the tallness of the grass for his defeats.

      He’s the better player overall.

      • barca96 says:

        See this is what I still don’t understand for years now. Why does Pirlo always get a pass for not doing any defensive work and Xavi always gets stick?

        Pirlo plays longer balls and riskier balls but Xavi doesn’t concede turnovers. Pirlo has 6 assists in Seria A while Xavi has 2 so I really don’t see that much of a difference.

        However, Pirlo is being hailed like a God in many forums while Xavi is the scapegoat for everything that’s wrong.

        • Gekko64 says:

          Pirlo plays as a very static deep lying playmaker with 3 CBs and two energetic midfielders. Xavi plays higher up and moves constantly, of course his game is going to suffer more from athletic decline.

        • 86ed says:

          Who’s scapegoating Xavi? I? You?
          Del Bosque benched him because a change was needed. I think he didn’t take it far enough, if anything. I would have benched, besides Xavi, also Iniesta, Alonso, Silva, and Busquets. Most especially Busquets. I called for for the holy midfield trio’s removal from Barcelona (through benching and putting for sale) before this past season began.

          As it was del Bosque benched Xavi, and his fans can now say “see, shouldn’t have benched him” with impunity. I say that’s nonsense. What would Xavi had done? Pass the ball sideways and backwards to bring forth a 0-0 or a 1-0? Probably, but times have changed, in case you hadn’t noticed. The era of the small passing midfielder died in ’12 (maybe even in ’11).

      • petog4realz says:

        Xavi shit on pirlo 100/100 times #fact. Remember Euro 2012 final? Pirlo was made to look like a fool by Xavi

  55. PrinceYuvi says:

    No Xavi, No magic.

  56. Lord Eddard Stark aka Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one says:

    ~ That Chile National Anthem at the Maracana – Spine Tingling!

    ~ Claudio Bravo – Exciting!

    ~ Chile’s prospects – Promising!

    ~ Alexis Sanchez – Electrifying!

    ~ People who are considering selling him – Stupefying!

    ~ Eduardo Vargas’ first touch – Mind Blowing!

    ~ Arturo Vidal – Tempting!

    ~ Spain getting kicked out – Calming!

    ~ Xavi’s rumored departure – Heartbreaking!

  57. Davour says:

    I’m a bit astounded at all the comments here regarding the Spain-Chile match. Who has not been appreciating Xavi? He is a legend. Does this make him immune against criticism in the present? No. While I can agree that I would have preferred Xabi being left out instead of Xavi, I hardly think it would have mattered much. And while VDB was hard pressed to make some changes to instill new energy into the squad after the degrading loos against NL, it is hardly down to single players’ fault. The team is not working out; its time has passed. And yes, it is unfortunate that it must end like this, but there are rarely any perfect endings. As G60 mentioned above, the Barca/Spanish game relies on an extremely high level of execution, and when this is not reached, the system crumbles. And Xavi is the heart of this system, so if you want to try to make changes, well… perhaps this is a necessary measure?

    If VDB would not have made any changes, and Spain had lost – then what would everyone say? Let us just simply mourn the end of an era, and look forward to the exciting new times which will surely come. I for one really hope that Xavi will stick around for another season – IF he can accept a more modest part to play. If he cannot, well – I would celebrate him and wish him all the best and make sure he knows he is always welcome back to the club in a different capacity.

    Whatever happens, we still know that he controlled a midfield like no one before him, and – together with Iniesta – masterminded the best NT ever, and probably best the club team, too. Thanks, Maestro!

    • No one is questioning the need for changes. But making changes for the sake of it would be extremely unstable. VDB never identified what was not working in his formation. So without identifying the problem he never could have solved it. He simply went with what media said and they were screaming for Pique’s and Xavi head the moment the match against Dutch ended. By the way using a quality defensive midfielder in a central defender role showed VDB had no idea what he was trying to achieve. The thinking looked like “I will throw one more midfielder so that increases chance of control”.

      • barca96 says:

        Xavi wasn’t the problem to begin with. And you don’t replace Pique with a DM in J. Martinez. I don’t know what del Bosque was thinking.

        He’s so persistent with Silva, Alonso and Casillas. Ok, Casillas might not be replaceable but the other 2 haven’t done anything of note. Alonso is the worst.

        @Davour

        It does matter. There is a big difference between Xavi and Xabi. Xavi = more control. Xabi – tries to control and tries to pass but fails in both aspects.

        • Davour says:

          Yes, as I said: I agree that Xabi was the one who should have been replaced by Martinez. And personally I have never been a big fan of Silva. Of course it has different implications for the game plan whether you choose Xavi or Xabi. My point was that the team’s problem is deeper than minor adjustments – including, most likely, VDB himself.

          Perhaps it would have been more honest to hang in there with the old system, let it play out (it worked rather well during first half against NL). Maybe he listened to the media, who knows. But no one can deny that Piqué had a far below par game against NL, and IF you want to try a different, more direct approach, perhaps Xavi must be replaced – though this is a big IF. Personally, I would prefer a switch of Costa for Cesc or Villa; a return to the basics. Whatever the outcome, one can perhaps understand the pressure following 1-5, and that finally, even this team will make a wrong turn.

          My bottom line is: the team was not up to the task this time around, regardless of who would have been starting. But then again, I might be a pessimist.

  58. KEVINO17 says:

    Interesting listening to australian coach say they targeted Dutch back three and holding midfielders because not great with the ball. Wait till the Chilean press hits them

    • barca96 says:

      I know the Dutch are ranked quite up there but I’m still not convinced. They were average vs Australia and average vs Spain in the 1st half too.

      I hope I’m wrong but I’m really not going to put my hopes up. Just look at the strong 2008 side. They were banging in goals and playing sexy football and then catapulted against Russia.

      And the players back then were much better.

  59. KEVINO17 says:

    The problem for spain and Barca is that at the height of their success they should have turned over their teams and didn’t. That was the genius of Ferguson. Instead the teams accumulated legacy players

  60. barca96 says:

    Something that Rakitic picked up from watching Alexis at the WC;

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Bqc7gVbCQAAzdvm.jpg:large

  61. andrecito says:

    sometimes i think the conversations i have with my girlfriend (shes japanese and knows nothing about futbol) are the best conversations i ever have..

    i was explaining to her the whole diego costa ordeal..his history, breakout year, switching over to the spanish national team, and terrible world cup…i was telling her that i thought that in my opinion, bringing him on to the team may have caused bad karma..a team that has won three cups in a row doesnt need to be dipping into the market..no matter what the rules are..

    i got to the part where i was telling her that after the great last year he had..the league title, tons of goals, euro success…he had a horrible world cup..and she asked me really seriously “on purpose?”….asif he was a mole, sent in to the spain camp to purposefully bring down the team and give brasil the advantage at their home turf world cup..

    i know its a ridiculous idea..but it was a funny conversation..

  62. ciaran says:

    Watching Spain and Barca makes me want a midfielder who is willing to shoot from distance. I know Paul Pogba is that type of player but has a big price tag. Vidal too in a slightly different way in that he doesn’t shoot from distance as often but does get beyond the forward line.
    Gokhan Inler is another one who shoots very well from outside the box and is a very physical midfielder.
    I’m not sure of anyone else is out there but getting someone that the opposition have to close down rather than stand off will be an advantage. Inler is a good choice but I can’t see it happening.

  63. Gekko64 says:

    Del Bosque was disappointing, he left the media to choose the formation instead of choosing the most in-form players, which is very important in a short tournament. he should also have taken account of the extreme weather and avoid fielding fatigued players.

    selection wise carvajal for azpi is debateable, navas was injuried I think and I would have picked llorente and negredo above torres and villa since they’re past their prime. it’s too bad that valdes got injuried because they REALLY needed him, casillas is just out of form recently and they have excellent backup keepers. I’d play something like:

    juanfran-piquè-ramos-alba
    martinez-busi
    silva-koke-iniesta
    costa

  64. Peter says:

    I wish I didn´t have to write this in the aftermath of a loss, when accusations, counter-accusations and scapegoat-searching are hurled around like a Dani Alves cross towards the head of an unfortunate defender, but it wasn’t for me to choose.

    As a non-Spanish culer I’m glad, very much so as a matter of fact, by the way the World Cup is developing so far. Xavi needs a Rest. Iniesta, Pique, Alba, Pedro and Busquets, they all need a long holiday away from football, recovering from football both physically and mentally. When they come back from that holiday, they will have to start working up, and hard decisions will have to be faced and made.

    For me Xavi must not be allowed to play two times per week. Take his gel and limit his mushroom intake if that’s what it takes, but do it. The club must look for and find solutions which do not involve him. Why am I hating on the legend, you’d ask. I don’t think I am, but in any case nothing lasts forever. I want Xavi to run, press and pass, even though it may be just once a week or every ten days. I’d rather have a fit Xavi playing for a total of 1800 minutes than Xavi staying on the pitch for 2700. And while he’s resting and recovering his Achilles tendons he can become a tutor for Rakitic, for Rafinha, Sergi Roberto and the rest. Puyol played a handful of games this season, but even last autumn Bartra was already playing much better than before and he credited Puyol’s lessons for his improvement.

    Busquets is another player whose condition needs revising. Actually that’s putting it wrong. Barcelona must stop heaping more and more on his plate in an attempt to see how much more can he take before breaking. He is already being asked to cover the whole width of the center of the pitch, he’s the main ball carrier from the defence to the midfield and increasingly to Messi, he’s required to tackle, challenge, intercept and foul(if needed) everything that moves in midfield, and he’s also the passing node from Iniesta to Xavi, and he also has to slot between the two CBs whenever Alba and Alves dash forward. That’s a workload for two world-class pivotes, and Busquets can be at only one place at any given moment. So he either needs to have his workload reduced or a partner added. Or both. Actually I’d dare the people saying Busquets sucks to find what single pivote can manage that workload. The addition of Rakitic and Rafinha would help somewhat, but for me the curtailing of simultaneous wingback runs is one key element, together with increased effort, both offensive and defensive, of the rest of the midfield and strikers. Busquets is slow. His awesome vision and prediction compensate, but the bigger the zone he’s asked to cover, the more he will have to rely on his feet, instead of his eyes and mind to get there.

    Then we get to the strikers. It doesn’t matter the scheme, Barcelona’s defensive effort starts from the final third. The strikers must start pressing again, together with the whole of the midfield. This is how a vital first goal is scored – and when the first goal is scored Barcelona’s strikers won’t have to bring down a stone wall by kicking it, but would instead encounter space due to the opponent looking for an equalizer. In essence, superior players use superior judgment and teamwork to avoid situations that require the demonstration of their superior skills. This already includes Alexis and Pedro, but if Deulofeu, Neymar and Messi also resume their defensive work, the results can be exceptional.

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