(S)painful

Germany have set an early pace which most teams have been unable to live up to. Apart from Brazil. And Argentina and Holland in small glimpses. Spain, for all the anticipation and pressure are unwillingly on the receiving end of the shock result of Round 1.

Defensively, Spain have never been known as formidable fortresses like the catenaccio Italians or the sturdy Germans. The manner of Switzerland’s winning goal today showed that despite their recently found stability they are still very vulnerable at the back.

Both Germany and Brazil have a much stronger defensive core than the Spaniards even when Spain are in top form. Germany has centre backs like Arne Friedrich and Per Mertesacker, who are more stable and experienced as well as a superb right-back in Philipp Lahm who is more influential in the creation of goals and play than Sergio Ramos is. Brazil has rock-solid veterans like Maicon and Lucio, as well as sturdy defensive midfielders like Gilberto Silva who despite his age, is still reliable.

Spain do have a good centre of defence with the Barcelona duo of Puyol and Pique, and Ramos and Capdevilla are certainly not average, but they are equally shaky (as documented today) as they are good.

In terms of sheer individual midfield class, Spain have it more than anyone else (Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, David Silva, Jesus Navas and Sergio Busquets) even compared to the considerable youthful talent showcased by the Germans (Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marco Marin) or the proven might of the Brazilian Kaka, Baptista or even newcomer Felipe Melo.

Similarly, when it comes to attacking talent, Spain boast of the irresistible duo of Fernando Torres and David Villa. They also have young talent like Pedro Rodriguez and Fernando Llorente on the bench. They are as good as the striking wealth of Brazil (Luis Fabiano, Robinho …) and Germany (Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, Thomas Mueller, Mario Gomez, Cacau.) However the low match-fitness of star Fernando Torres might be an important factor.

The current crop of Spaniards are unrivaled in their beautiful passing game and artistic style of play and moment – an unstoppable force that won it the Euro 2008 and the number 1 world ranking. But it is their seeming lack of Plan B when Plan A is ineffective that makes them look like a downright ordinary side. With around 7 Barcelona players in their squad, Spain suffers from the same problem that troubles Barca and a team like Arsenal who share a similar style of play.

Germany attacked brilliantly against the Socceroos, playing a similar passing style. Albeit more effectively than the Spaniards did today. But it remains to be seen whether they can keep it up successfully.

Even if  Spain need wins against both Chile and Honduras to qualify for the knockout stages, they are still definite Cup contenders. One shocking loss to the Swiss camp in their opening match just showcases their weaknesses, doesn’t lessen what they’re capable of.

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