Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi and Sergio Busquets produced a stunning show against Uruguay as Spain produced a masterclass in their 2-1 win.
La Roja treated the world to a sumptuous display of fluid, penetrative and attacking football as they passed Uruguay off the park in Recife.
Vicente del Bosque’s men were in a league of their own, midfield mastery at its best.
Uruguay spent the entire 90 minutes chasing shadows as Spain seamlessly imposed their tiki-taka style of play. They already are the best team in football at the moment, and have been for a while now, but Sunday night’s display was a notch higher even by their own high standards.
Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta were absolutely fantastic throughout the match. The absence of Xabi Alonso did little to affect how they played. In actual fact it seemed to be the reason they played better.
Spain have not been this fluid in a long time. Everything ticked so marvellously - it was great to watch.
They had such a natural balance and link-up play that you would be forgiven to think the white colours of Uruguay represented a much, much lesser team. You shudder when it hits you that they are the Copa America holders.
Pedro caused trouble almost at will to both Uruguay full-backs with his pace and trickery. Fabregas shuttled in and out of the lines like a ghost, Roberto Soldado filled in seamlessly as the front man it looked like he had been Spain’s first-choice in that position all along.
Iniesta skipped past players with so much ease it was almost ridiculous. It was like watching a swan grace its way past obstacles in the water. Xavi was back to his typical, brilliant best - recycling possession and keeping his team ticking. Busquests commanded the anchor-man role superbly, as we have come to expect, breaking up opposition attacks while springing some for his own team.
Jordi Alba stretched out the Uruguay back-line and was an ever-present outlet. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique were solid at the back, well-organised and were rarely troubled. Pique almost grabbed a goal himself in one of his forays forward for a corner.
Fabregas particularly revelled in his new role as the link between the midfield and attack as opposed to his more recent deployment as the false number nine. This is the position he loves and it showed. He constantly came deep to collect possession and either spread it to Pedro or feed it to Soldado who was never, even for a single moment, isolated upfront.
That’s just how fluid the midfield was. A pattern of play where Iniesta skipped over the ball and let it run to Cesc while dragging two defenders with him allowing Fabregas to shoot into the bottom of the post was delightful.
The absence of Alonso through injury was not felt at all. As great as he is as an individual, Spain seemed to play better with an extra man playing further up the pitch. He will not play any part in the tournament due to injury and it will be interesting to see how La Roja cope without him especially for the tighter matches (as if Uruguay would not be tight enough).
Early diagnostics indicate they will do just fine. Furthermore they have an even better player - in my opinion - for that role in the brilliant and more mobile Javi Martinez waiting on the wings.
It brings a cold chill when you take a glance at the bench and see the likes of Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, Martinez, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres and even Victor Valdes relaxing cheerfully waiting for their turn. A reserve cant get better than that.
The only blot on an otherwise superlative performance from Spain’s point of view was the final score. 2-1 gives the impression of an even, closely fought match but in all truth it was far, far from that.
Granted they did strike the base of the post but such a dominating, all encompassing display deserves a more accurately reflective score line. Luis Suarez’s brilliant free-kick in the dying embers of the game was scant consolation.
Del Bosque has laid down the gauntlet and Spain have laid their intentions bare. It's safe to say those intentions have been felt loud and clear.
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