1088

1088.

That is the number of Spain’s passes in this morning’s (Manila time) match versus the Czech Republic. La Roja (ironically in white, with Czech Republic in red) has already qualified for the Euro 2012 finals, but that did not stop the European and World Champions from displaying excellent form.

I know there are some who criticize the tiki-taka that all they do is pass-pass-pass for a full 90 minutes. Yet, they fail to see it’s not just about the possession. It’s about methodically breaking down the opponent. Watching this game made me think La Roja was at one of their finest—despite the fact that key men such as Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas are out due to injury.

Interestingly enough, Vicente del Bosque started David Silva and Fernando Torres—this after SIlva lamented that he no longer gets a spot in the starting XI after Spain’s loss to Switzerland in their first game in the World Cup 2010 and after Fernando Torres was not even on the bench in their last Euro 2012 qualifier versus Liechtenstein. Trust the marquis to issue a challenge to both players by giving them starting spots.

La Roja got an early goal from Juanin Mata, off a Xavi assist—which was sublime, to capture it succinctly. Meanwhile, David Silva proved his magic by making an assist to Xabi Alonso, who scored Spain’s second goal. This is Xabi’s 11th goal since del Bosque took over—and only David Villa has scored higher with 13 goals. Xabi is also Spain’s 5th highest scoring midfielder to date. Unfortunately, my man had to be subbed out after receiving a horrible tackle from Hübschmann, who was automatically awarded a red card. Thank goodness, Xabi is fine (all man, all rock, all ginger).

Iker Casillas, as expected, was hardly tested, and this is his 150th cap for Spain. We also saw the return of Carles Puyol to national team duties since late last year, coming on for Sergio Ramos, who was also injured. I also thought Alvaro Arbeloa (bless his thigh) is performing much better these days. Javi Martinez, who came on for Xabi Alonso, also had two opportunities to add to the goal tally, both of which hit the crossbar.

1088, it’s 150 passes more than most teams accomplish in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. Nothing less from los campeones de Europa y del mundo.

And because I just had to:

Euro 2012 Qualifiers: Spain 6 – 0 Liechtenstein

Thank god for TVE, which shows La Roja’s matches in the Philippines (live, at that). This is more than I can say for ESPN/Star, who refuses to air Liverpool’s matches in our fledgling football country.

Of course, TVE did not disappoint with the Spain-Liechtenstein match. And La Roja did not disappoint either (but of course, Liechtenstein are minnows!).

This match saw the pairing of Sergio Busquets and Raul Albiol at the central defense, which was not a disaster compared to the Javi Martinez-Raul Albiol partnership several days ago—but of course, the credit goes to Spain’s steely midfield anchored by Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Xabi Alonso, who made sure that Spain dominated possession.

Liechtenstein clearly played with defense in mind, but even their defense was no match for the World Champions, who just managed to find those open spaces. The passing was just too sublime, and if Liechtenstein’s goalkeeper just had an off day, it would have been raining goals for Spain at the rate they were playing.

Alvaro Negredo scored twice, at the 32nd and 37th minutes. Now this is a player whose looking to have a spot at the Euro 2012, and it is worth noting that he started ahead of Fernando Torres, who was not even on the bench. Now, let’s not jump conclusions to Torres being beyond his prime. Only 18 players were required by UEFA, and among those who also sat this one out were Martinez and Pepe Reina.

Xavi got into the scoreboard at the 43rd minute, with a beautiful golazo off a free kick. This, ladies and gentlemen, is why this man is called a football maestro. Xavi was substituted in the second half by Cesc Fabregas, who still badly needs a haircut.

On the 51st minute, my favorite pony, Sergio Ramos, scored a goal of his own. That is what you call being at the right place at the right time, gently nudging the ball with his left foot to the bottom right corner of the goal. Meanwhile, David Villa (god bless the copious amounts of gel on his hair) scored his 48th and 49th goals for Spain in this match.

Other key substitutions included: Thiago, who makes his first official appearance for Spain (hands off, Brazil!); and Fernando Llorente, “el hombre de Logroño”. I love it that Vicente del Bosque pays attention to such things.

This victory essentially puts defending champions Spain through to the Euro 2012 finals. Vamos La Roja!

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