Euro 2012 day three analysis: Do Spain strike the right balance?

 

When David Villa was ruled out of the European Championship with a broken leg, coach Vicente del Bosque was faced with the decision of how to replace Spain's all-time leading goalscorer.

Euro 2012 goal: Fabregas scores Spain equaliser

He opted not to go for a like-for-like replacement in Sunday's 1-1 draw against Italy, with Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and David Silva the Spanish players operating furthest up the pitch.

Indeed, Iniesta's five shots was more than any player on either side, with Fabregas and Silva's three attempts next on the list of shotmakers, level with Italy's Antonio Cassano.

When Fernando Torres came off the bench to replace Fabregas he wasted two good chances. So are Spain better off with or without a specialist striker in their forward line?

BBC pundits and fomer England internationals Lee Dixon and Danny Mills give their verdicts on Spain's no-striker tactic:

Lee Dixon on Match of the Day:

Lee Dixon

"Spain played with six midfielders and no forwards. They tried to draw the Italian defence out and hit the space behind.

"It was very effective at times, but the game changed when Torres came on. With him up front, the Spain build-up play was different.

"With Spain's quality in their squad, with the likes of Torres and Fernando Llorente on the bench, they will still be a force to be reckoned with."

Danny Mills on Radio 5 live:

Danny Mills

"Spain mirrorred Barcelona's style, with a flat back four then a 1-2-1-2 formation, with two forward players of Silva and Iniesta - and Fabregas having a free role.

"In the first half, the Italians played well. They were dogged but also created chances. Spain did not get enough men high up the pitch and they were fortunate not to be behind.

"The Italy goal woke Spain up, and they pushed on and began to play with a higher tempo."

Top five shooters

Spain's display in numbers:

  • Spain had 17 shots, but only five were on target - 29%
  • Italy had only 11 shots, but six were on target - 55%
  • Spain made almost double the number of passes, 780 to Italy's 426
  • Spain had all of the game's top eight passers, with Xavi and Sergio Busquets leading the way on 106
  • Fabregas's goal was the first Italy have conceded in the second half of a competitive game since the 2010 World Cup
  • It also ended Spain's 364-minute wait for a goal against Italy in a European Championships finals
  • The 1-1 result is Spain's first draw in a competitive game under Del Bosque
  • Seven of Spain's starting XI began the 2010 World Cup final, while Fabregas, Torres and Jesus Navas all came off the bench in the 1-0 win over Netherlands

What they said about Spain's forward line:

"I had some chances, Andres Iniesta had some chances, but we didn't score." - Spain striker Fernando Torres.

"We wanted to have superiority in the midfield so that we could have possession and arrive higher up the pitch. David Silva, Cesc and Andres Iniesta arrived very well from the second line of attack and I think they did very well in a lot of moments." - Spain boss Vincente del Bosque.

"Fernando, Fernando, do you not realise you could be playing for the very existence of centre forwards?" - Gary Lineker on Twitter. 

"Torres looks a threat. Spain much better with him on team." - Robbie Savage on Twitter. 

"We were a little surprised with Spain's line-up but we agreed that we needed to focus on our own game." - Italy boss Cesare Prandelli .