When Fabio Capello announced his squad that would face Spain in this international friendly, everyone was quick to assume that it was already a ready excuse should they be humiliated by the World Champions. After all, several big names were missing—how could this squad stand a chance against the Spanish armada?
One factor that perhaps was overlooked was Spain’s rather dismal record on international friendlies post their World Cup 2010 win, with the L column registering the highest tally.
And on November 12, the side that had something to prove prevailed.
Throughout the match, I kept thinking about Xabi Alonso’s interview in The Guardian, where he notes some key differences between English and Spanish football player—it was evident in how both sides played, particularly in the first half, when the quality between both sides was just gaping. Obviously, the game changer (not just about the result, but what changed England’s psyche for the remainder of the game) was Frank Lampard’s header off a free kick to beat Pepe Reina and whoever else was supposed to mark him.
Still, a few key observations had to be made about La Roja’s performance: first, the midfield is not as tight as it usually is; second, there was no finishing—for all of Spain’s possession and technical quality, the England defense just snuffed out most of the attempts (England’s defensive line pretty much was made up of their 11 men); and third, hardly any Spaniard could break the defense, particularly in the last third of the game. Cesc Fabregas had the best chance for an equalizer, and he should have gone for goal instead of making the extra pass (which was intercepted).
Sure, the match was not the thriller that people expected it to be, yet England can only hope to take away a renewed confidence in how they perform as a team coming into Euro 2012. For Spain, Vicente del Bosque will be looking at what went wrong, but hey, I have confidence that the Spaniards will bring on the hunger and intensity during a match that matters. (Beat the World Champions, feel like World Champions—but hey, Spain are still the World Champions.)
Next up: a friendly versus Costa Rica. There were talks of a friendly versus China earlier in the year. Oh boy, if that had happened, maybe I’d be seeing my beloved team in the flesh already.
Side Notes: This is Xabi’s first time to play in Wembley, and he clocked a solid performance despite the loss. This is also a breakout game for Jordi Alba, who showed his quality as a left fullback. And for the love of all things handsome, what is that thing on Cesc Fabregas’ head?
It is also important to note that this is Iker Casillas’ 126th cap for Spain, tying Andoni Zubizarreta for most caps for country. Felicidades capitan!
And this is what it feels like to by on Skype with Iker (well, we can all dream, right?):