Spain was not long ago one of the best teams in the Euro Cup and the world that not long ago was 2014 until the World Cup of that same year. What happened to Spain? It won 2 Euro Cups and 1 World Cup all in a consecutive manner. Why did it all of a sudden slide to a regular team that could be defeated by any team?

The answer continuous to be a mystery, although its present player base could give an answer. Spain has played with its wonder team from 2007 all the way to 2015 with few replacements. The heroes from yesterday are old and not getting any younger. Their prime years are gone and few superstars are replacing them. Nonetheless Spain remains a strong contender for the 2016 Euro Cup.

Spain Style of Play –Tiki-Taka

Spain Euro Cup

Tiki-taka is a style of play that has identified the Spanish national team for years. Its main characteristic is to travel the ball in a short passing style, one or two touches max, through different channels with players constantly changing positions and keeping possession of the ball at all times. It is based upon unity and understanding in the geometry of space in a football field.

That is the main goal of tiki-taka, to maintain position rather than focus on defense or attacking power. This style of play demands patience and dribbling skills to finally penetrate the rival’s defense and score.

Spain takes tiki-taka to the next level, they dominate the technique in a complex fashion moving the ball in intricate patterns, but switching to a powerful, aggressive and direct attack.

During the World Cup of 2010 Spain defeated Germany in the semi-finals, Honigstein had this to say about the Spanish style of play… “It is the most difficult version of football possible an uncompromising passing game, coupled with intense, high pressing.”

Spain’s tiki taka allows them to control both the ball and the opponent. Similar to “jogo bonito” from Brazil, this style of play that has been implemented by Spain since the 1920’s sometimes sacrifices effectiveness for aesthetics. The best example of tiki-taka tactics can be seen on the Spanish games between the years of 2008 and 2012, when they accomplish two Euro Cups and a World Cup.

Spain´s geometrical style tiki-taka analyzed:

Powerful, Aggressive, Direct

The tiki-taka is contemporary system that Spain has evolved and marks every professional football base style in the present. The differential ingredient from this national team above all others is how they take the style to the next level with power, aggressiveness and frontal confrontation; a style that earned Spain the nickname “Furia Roja” (Red Fury) back in the 1920’s.

In general, the European style falls down into the “fast results category”, but most commonly the German were effectiveness over good skill prevails. Germany is the present super favorite to win the Euro Cup 2016 following a story very similar to Spain’s 2008 – 2012.

Spain blends both tiki-taka and power extremely well, something that not only allows them to have a defensive advantage by controlling the ball most of the time while generating dangerous and multiple goal opportunities. A perfect combination for success.

Euro Cup 2008

To win this championship Spain employed a combination of both tiki taka and direct forms of plays. Tiki-Taka was used to protect a weak defense, by constantly rotating the ball in short geometrical formations they made it very hard for attackers to steal the ball while it was transported above midfield.

On the other side, the strikers did not waste time in multiple passes, instead they attacked in frontal charges with speed and force.

From Spain´s first 6 goals in the tournament 5 came from direct breaks and just one from a set play.

Spain 2008/2012 Football’s Greatest Teams

Spain 2015 Stats

After the World Cup 2014 surprising flop, stepping out of the tournament in the group stages, Spain has had real trouble to recover their game.

During the Euro Cup 2016 qualifiers Spain managed to win 8 of 10 games on group C, no draws. The only games lost were against the Netherlands by 2 goals and away, and against Germany at home, both were friendly matches. From its qualifier rivals the only worthy opponents were Ukraine and Slovakia, only major achievement was defeating England on a friendly 2 – 0 at home [1].

Euro Cup Championship Record

Spain Betting

Spain has won two Euro Cups, and one extra early during the tournament beginnings when only a few teams played in two games. Their record does not show a consistent trend to win the championship or to even reach the final stages. The team actually had a terrible era between the 60´s and the 70´s were it never even got to qualify to the Euro.

Only recently in 2008 Spain became a superpower in football by winning the 2008 Euro Cup and 2012, with the World Cup of 2010 trophy in between.

Football Timeline:

1960 – Withdrew as a form of protest along many other top European national team after the Soviet Union was allowed to play in the tournament.

1964 – Champions, played only 2 games and won both of them.

1968 – 1976 – Did not qualify.

1980 – Group Stages

1984 – Runner Ups

1988 – Group Stage

1992 – Did not qualify

1995 – Quarterfinals

2000 – Quarter Finals

2004 – Group Stages

2008 – Champions

2012 – Champions

All Time Stats

Historical Winning Percentage: 58.39%

FIFA Rank: 8  *Came down from #1 after the World Cup 2014.

World Cup 2014, a Fiasco

What happened to Spain during the 2014 World Cup? Following their historical record, it comes as no surprise that Spain wins it all only to fail during the group stages. It has happened to them before in different competitions but never before in such extreme. Of the 3 games from the group stages they won 1 of 3 during the World Cup.

Spain 3 – 0 Australia

Spain 0 – 2 Chile

Spain 1 – 5 Netherlands

*Note: Chile was a nobody national team before this World Cup. It managed to end in final 16 were soon to be champions Germany eliminated them. 1 year later they won their first Copa America 2015 with a clean sheet. On the first phase of the World Cup qualifiers they defeated almost all of their rivals, including Brazil, and only drawing once.

But being flattened by the Netherlands with 5 goals has been one of Spain’s greatest humiliations, David defeats goliath.

Historical Records

Spain jumped into the legends arena when it won three major championships in a row between 2008 and 2012, before that whatever greatness the tiki-taka team had was prior to the 1950’s and quickly fading into history with the world domination of Brazil.

These are the Spanish records that live on as proof to their achievements:

Most consecutive games undefeated. 35 games during 2007 – 2009. They share this record with Brazil who obtained it from 1993 – 1996.

Most consecutive wins, includes friendlies. 15 games between 2008 – 2009

Most consecutive official games undefeated. 29 games between 2010 – 2013.

Most consecutive wins achieved by one coach since his debut. Vicente del Bosque takes this distinction with 13.

Highest number of points in World Cup qualifiers. 30 out of 30 in the 2008/09 season

*David Villa is Spain’s all-time scorer with 59 goals with the national team.

Iker Casillas

Iker Casillas Skills

With Iker Casillas and De Gea as goalkeepers, Spain have two of the best in the world guarding its net.

Casillas has been a prolific goalkeeper throughout being nominated to best footballer of the year several times by FIFA on different competitions.

With Torres and other select few players he shares the rare honor to have won all types of national and international championships. His records go on to tell how much experience his has, but also how old he is. Casillas is well over 32 years old.

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is another legend in the Spanish squad, but currently reaching his 30 years of age. He plays for Real Madrid as captain and central defender or right back, something very common with skillful strikers. As a right back he can play with a main striker and cut in from the side at full speed.

Style of Play

A prolific defender with high air skills and an aggressive tackler. He can manage pace and strong dribbling technique with a great passing accuracy. Carlos Ancelotti compared him to Paolo Maldini for his offensive and defensive abilities. A full field player that became the backbone of Spain during its glory years.

The downside comes with his temperament, he holds the record to the mot red cards shown in Real Madrid in history.

Diego Costa

Diego Costa Skills

Diego Costa is a Brazilian player that decided to play with the Spanish national team after acquiring the citizenship in that country. He plays with Chelsea in the Premier League and was key to the English title of 2013/14.

Style of Play

His style has been described as a talented striker who relies on his personal strength, ball possession and goal scoring proficiency. Power and aggression are the best ways to describe his style.

The big problem comes with his attitude, a provoker in the field Costa has been sanctioned several times for his conduct and shown the yellow card often.  During his time in Spanish clubs, Atletico Madrid and Celta de Vigo, Costa was nicknamed after bullfighter “Curro Romero” and the “Tasmanian Devil” for his temper. Back then his manager José Luis Mendilibar sent Costa to work on a vineyard as punishment.

During the 2015/16 season however Costa goal rate came to shambles with only 3 goals by November of 2015, and Chelsea down mid-table.

During the 2014/15 season he scored every 99.8 minutes, now his average goal comes every 356.3 minutes. His striking accuracy is down from 11.8% to 26.2%.

He used to produce 3.44 shots per 90 minutes played, now its 2.15. This is attributed to his excessive ball possession and defenders are finally winning over personal battles before he can even target the goal.

His shots on target have descended from 2.21 to 1.01.

These stats do not farewell for the Spanish national team [2].

Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres Skills

Fernando “El Niño” Torres, a Spanish legend and one of the prime responsible in Spain 3 consecutive international championships, review the FIFA records table and Torre´s name jumps several times as one of the greatest goal scorers of our time. Third highest goal-scorer of all time, most goals scored in the Spanish national team, only player to win all types club and national championships (Euro Cup, World Cup, Champions League, Euro League, Confederations Cup, Club World Cup, La Liga, Copa del Rey etc.)

Style of Play

“My technique, is no technique” – Bruce Lee; well not quite the best way to describe Torres, but his description in style of play simple is “technically proficient with a high scoring rate”. He simply is a great footballer, very complete in all aspects with no clear distinction in his game style. In the present Muller from the German national team might be following his footsteps, at least they have very similar characteristics in their game style.

All you need to know about Torres is that he is a natural front striker that hunts down goal scoring positions in the rival´s area, and uses his pace and intelligence to get behind defenders.

Torres is a legend in Atletico Madrid where he played in his prime for several seasons before leaving for Liverpool, Chelsea, a failed recent attempt in Milan and then back to Atletico. As a goal scorer it is clear Torres is not in his best and is expected to retire soon, actually his scoring rate is decreasing season after season ever since leaving Liverpool. His last great season was 2012/13 with Chelsea when he scored 22 goals that season thanks to Chelsea participating in all possible championships and even friendlies.

During the 2014/2015 season with Chelsea he was out of rhythm and played in no games while his transfer to Milan was resolved, ending in Atletico Madrid early 2015. With Atletico in the 2015 season it is clear he is on the brink of retirement with 32 years of age with only 8 goals in the pocket for the entire year.

*You might also want to read: France Euro Cup 2016 Stats and Betting Tips

References

[1] 11v11.com, Spain Stats, 2015

[2] Itv.com, The Stats Behind Chelsea Striker Diego Costa Disappointing Season So Far, 2015