It should have been difficult for Spain to live up to the hype heading into this World Cup tournament, but somehow they may have exceeded expectations in the opening games, yet still the majority of viewers are not surprised. Consistency in performance is the Holy Grail for coaches at every level, but sometimes when you arrive there you can move towards predictability and then you move in the other direction. Not only do you need creative players at the highest level, but you also need creative solutions on the sideline in order to continually stay ahead of the game. Luis Enrique ability to solve different pictures in a different phases of the game is one of the reasons why Spain are one of the favorites to win this tournament and we take a closer look at that in these videos.
We have looked at their rotations in two separate ways. Against Costa Rica, it was about the Spanish attack beating the block. Although they started in a 4-4-2 traditional shape, Costa Rica dropped into a much more compact lower block designed to prevent Spain from accessing those central spaces. You can see in the picture below that many teams would be forced to look to the wide channels for answers against this type of system.
Although you would expect Spain to have answers for this as they have experienced it quite a few times over the years, it was the role of the attacking midfielders that jumped out to me. Costa Rica's shape should have reduced their impact but Spain's rotations opened up more opportunities for them to get involved and impact the game. Below is a video of that breakdown.
In the second game against Germany however, Spain were faced with a very different picture when they were in possession. Germany's 4-2-3-1 was designed to prevent Luis Enrique's team from accessing those central spaces that they exploited at ease against Costa Rica, but it was in the press that they provided the biggest challenge. Hansi Flick opted for a 3-5-2 press against Spain, presenting man-to-man coverage to Spain's back four and central midfielders. With Sergio Busquets being key to so much in the build for Spain, it seemed that Germany would cancel out that option. In the picture below you can see Busquets being marked, but also being restricted by 'cover shadows' if the keeper passes to either center back. Despite the success of the Germany press, Spain still found a host of different solutions to break out and attack with Sergio Busquets and the Spain midfield.
Below is a video breakdown that shows those solutions using both rotations and the role of Sergio Busquets to break the Germany press. Again, similar to the Costa Rica pictures, it's the variety of solutions that jump out to me here. When it appears Germany have prevented Spain from playing their normal game, Luis Enrique's team actually have five or six ways that they can break pressure. That is football intelligence at the very highest level.
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