Spain – Who Are They?

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La Furia Roja.

The Red Fury.

The common theme in the definitions of “fury” is violent – and with Spain’s strike duo of Fernando Torres and David Villa, they just might live up to their nickname.

Torres and Villa are two of the world’s most respected strikers, and their combination alone makes Spain the deadliest attacking team in the world.

Nevermind that they have a stable of world-class passers behind them, providing 1-2s that our American squad could only hope to master.Spain’s biggest turning point in becoming a world power has been the emergence of Torres and Villa as the international strike partnership. There isn’t a better one in world, or even club, football.

While their number of world class strikers stops at two, their horde of midfielders extends all the way through their bench, where Cesc Fabregas is usually left waiting to be subbed in. The same 22-yr-old Cesc Fabregas that is a mega-star for Arsenal and considered one of top midfielders in the world. He can’t even crack the starting lineup most games. In fact, had Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta been ruled fit for the tournament, it’s questionable whether Fabregas would have gotten any starts at all.

Iniesta is, after all, only considered by some the best player in the world on current form.

What is it that makes these players so good? Why is this version of La Selección currently the best team in the world?

They move, they pass, they finish.

They have no player with the personal flamboyance of Cristiano Ronaldo or the sheer power of Didier Drogba or the midfield dominance of Michael Essien. They do, however, have the best passers in the world.

Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, and David Silva are just a small example of the midfielders on Spain’s side. World-class players with vision, touch, and passing range. Xavi and Alonso boast the biggest passing ranges in the world right now, able to hit their strikers on the run from 45+ yards away. Fabregas and Silva are athletic, versatile talents with the same abilities – and they can play out wide. The scariest notion? Silva and Fabregas might not even start against the United States.

Spain’s movement off the ball is beautiful. Each midfielder is constantly working to give the passer an option, whether it be forward, backward, or square. Every pass is seen as a 1-2 opportunity, leaving defenders turning in circles.

While their movement is great, their passing is even better. They make the simple passes and they make the hard ones look simple. They can pass around their own midfield in endless fashion, looking like a team doing a possession drill. The defense gets sucked in, one man after another, until suddenly a midfielder bursts forward and looks to set Torres or Villa free on goal.

Once Torres and Villa are in, there’s very little chance of stopping them. While not quite the fancy footwork artists that the Brazilians are, the Spanish duo is crafty enough to make a fake or two. However, with their speed and lethal finishing, it’s rare that they have to.

The US has a tall task set before them, one that involves withstanding an onslaught of Spanish movement, passing, and finishing. They’ll have to work relentlessly to gain possession, but then have enough poise to maintain it. The American squad will need to be “The Red, White, and Blue Fury” against Spain.

One definition of violent is “having or showing great emotional force” – and hopefully that’s how we’re defining the American performance come Wednesday.

La Furia Roja awaits.

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