Even though we have already advanced into the quarterfinals, our final match in Group D against Spain is a key matchup. The pressure is off to get to the next round, but with a win or a tie we would finish atop the group and would face the second place team in Group C. Playing a team like Spain is also a good test for our team as they are definitely one of the leading soccer nations in the world. We know if we are going to keep advancing in the World Championship, we will need to be able to compete at the highest level and beat the top teams in the world.
Spain is a talented side with skillful players in every position on the field. The players have a wealth of experience as each has signed a professional contract with a team in Spain. There is no doubt that their professional experience helps them as they compete at the highest level here in Finland.
Spain is tactically organized and in general plays in a 4-1-4-1 formation. Basically this formation means they are playing with four defenders and have a holding midfielder that sits in front of the backline. Their four midfielders form the next line, with the lone striker in front of them. Their striker plays as a target player stretching the opposing defense. When they are on the attack one of the two central midfielders will join the top striker, playing off or making penetrating through runs. In addition, Spain's flank play is excellent. Along with their wide midfielders, Spain's outside backs like to get involved in the attack by making dangerous overlapping runs.
Defensively, Spain is strong in the back. Their center backs have the ability to dominate physically, while as a team they do a good job of getting numbers behind the ball. They are organized and compact, doing a good job of pressuring the ball and limiting the options available to opposing attackers.
In their first game, Spain jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on Sierra Leone before one of their center backs received a second yellow 27 minutes into the game. That changed the course of the match, as Sierra Leone was able to battle back from the two goal deficit and tally three goals, keeping the lead deep into injury time. Spain showed it's a team that won't back down from a challenge though as they continually challenged Sierra Leone's goal, finally getting the desperate equalizer off the final kick of the game.
Against Korea Republic, Spain fell behind by two goals, but came back in commanding fashion for a 3-2 victory. The ability to come back in the their second straight came shows how resilient they can be. Spain also demonstrated it's ability to strike quickly as it got all three goals from second-half substitute Silva in a 12 minute span in the second half. Sisi provided much of the set-up for Silva as he repeatedly served dangerous balls into the penalty area from the right flank.
As we near kickoff, the players understand that even though we're assured to go through to the second round, getting a victory or tie against Spain is crucial, as it would place us atop the group. We realize this will be a tough match and one we can learn from as we continue to be challenged while we move on in the tournament. Now, we just need to go out and perform at our best on the field.