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2 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Spain rediscover style for new WC challenge

AFP

AFP, MADRID: They may not be a top seed for Friday's World Cup draw in Moscow, but the fresh blood added by coach Julen Lopetegui has put Spain back among the favourites for glory next July. Early exits at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 appeared to show the sun was setting on Spain's most successful generation after three consecutive major tournament triumphs at Euros 2008 and 2012 either side of La Roja's only ever World Cup title in South Africa in 2010.

However, since succeeding Vicente del Bosque, Lopetegui has blended the experienced remnants of the World Cup winning side with a host of graduates from the under-21 team he led to a European title in 2013.

The results have been spectacular. Sixteen games into his reign, Lopetegui has yet to taste defeat.

Spain's qualifying record of nine wins and a draw, scoring 36 goals and conceding just three, left Italy a distant second in Group G and on the brink of their World Cup abyss.

Just over a year after being dumped out of Euro 2016 by the Azzurri, Spain thrashed Italy 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu in September in a style reminiscent of the "tiki-taka" short-passing game that bamboozled opponents and won fans across the world between 2008 and 2012.

“I believe that the best thing a coach has to do is optimise and make the most of the virtues of his players”, Lopetegui told Barcelona-based sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo on Wednesday.

“I think that the best quality of Spanish players is their passing ability and individual technique. Logically, we have to take advantage of that.” Lopetegui said it would be a mistake to try to adopt the Italian “door-bolt” defensive system.

“Spain can't play catenaccio because that wouldn't make the most of the quality of our players.”

The core that has survived from Spain's heyday contains Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. Some of the energy and hunger missing in recent tournaments has been added by the likes of David de Gea, Koke, Isco, Thiago Alcantara and Alvaro Morata who plug the gaps left by Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Xabi Alonso.

Morata's stunning start to life at Chelsea has also eased a long-running void up front since David Villa and Fernando Torres were at their peak.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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