Rafa Benítez Blog RSS Rafa Benítez Blog

05
Jun 2012
09:24
An excellent foundation stone, by Rafa Benitez

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

Spain had to work hard and be patient in their final preparation match before the Euros. In Seville, in La Cartuja Stadium, they came up against a China team who surprised them and gave them lots to think about for much of the game. But that's exactly what you need in a preparation game. The intensity, organisation and counter attack were the hallmarks of the Chinese side and may have come as a surprise to many people but not to those who know Jose Antonio Camacho.

So I think that to analyse this type of game the first thing you have to consider is what's at stake for both teams. For Spain it was a preparation game for the Euros. They European and World champions were up against an industrious China in a friendly before an important tournament. My first reaction is that the Spanish players would have it in the back of their minds to play more cautiously so as to avoid getting injured.

As for China, they would be clearly more motivated against the World champions to test their level against the best team around at the moment.

Another factor the coaches of both sides and their respective staff, who are now opponents but who had been team mates and friends for many years. During my time as youth coach at Real Madrid I remember many hours of chatting between Jose Antonio Camacho, Vicente del Bosque and Toni Grande who along with other coaches led a really intensive football apprenticeship.

THE SYSTEMS

As for the game itself, we have to look at the shape used by both sides at the start.

China, using a more defensive 1-4-2-3-1 looking to counter attack, were dropping off trying to be compact and come out quickly. They were better in the wide areas with hard working centre midfield players and pace, ability in attack form their second line. They did drop their work rate in the second half though whilst Spain managed to maintain their quality and tempo or even raise it by. Bringing on players like Andres Iniesta, who would ultimately make the difference.


Spain's main aim was obviously to keep possession patiently and use their ability. Then there was the position of Xavi Hernandez, forward, and trying to combine with Alvaro Negredo, with the option of swapping the role with players like Andres Iniesta or Cesc Fabregas in certain situations. Del Bosque tried his 1-4-3-3 with David Silva and Santi Cazorla wide on opposite sides to their strongest foot.

The Spanish team always had control of the match despite the efforts of the opposition, and a lot of possession. Though, bearing in mind it was their last match before going to the Euros, maybe they overdid the play through the middle and didn't use the width enough. Meanwhile China played to their strengths, all defending, dropped off and counter attacking after regaining the ball. Sometimes they played too quickly but generally they had some threat with their pace. Their lines were compact and pressed Spain when they could. Camacho's players pressed well after losing possession and the centre midfielders controlled the Spanish central attacks well.

In the first half, despite Spain's clear advantage in possession, chances to score were even. The Spanish got in mainly on the left with the attacks of Jordi Alba and the mobility and combinations of Xavi, Cazorla and Silva playing between the lines; China however had chances from mistakes as Spain tried to build up in their own half and from quick counter attacks on transition.

THE SECOND HALF

The second period began with substitutions. Torres came on for Negredo and Jesus Navas came on on the right to get more penetration for the home team. In fact, in the first three minutes they got in the box twice in dangerous attacks. In the second half the domination of possession created more clearcut goal opportunities for the Spanish. Iniesta, Silva, Mata, Torres all could have scored from several chances but the goalkeeper, Zeng Chang, saved a couple and they hit the woodwork and wasted other chances which frustrated the Spanish. In the end it was Silva, after great play by Iniesta (84 minutes), managed to get the goal to seal the win. Del Bosque's team could have increased the lead but didn't manage to do it before the final whistle.

As for China, they had the same shape and ideas as before but with less energy and with less of a threat.

The Chinese side found it difficult to maintain their defensive organisation for the whole game making a few individual mistakes against the pressure. When the full backs followed Cazorla and Silva man to man, the mobility of these two created vital space for Arbeloa and especially Jordi Alba on the left to attack. Jose Antonio Camacho and his team have started to create a unit which, if they continue their progress, will have a lot to offer in the short, medium and long term. One of their main weapons, the pace of their forwards, allow them to mount quick counter attacks in which Yu Hai and Hao Junmin are the ones who are direct and can threaten.

In conclusion, job done, and an interesting preparation match for Spain and a cornerstone for the abilities of Camacho's team. It now remains to wait the opening of the Euros and enjoy the spectacle. Here on www.rafabenitez.com we will let you know about it.