Spain were impressive in their 3-0 win against Italy at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, as Isco scored twice with Chelsea’s Álvaro Morata sealing the third goal and the game to take Spain to the top of the group, and three points clear of their rivals.
What was so incredible about Spain’s performance last night was the fluidity between passing, and the way that they attacked the Italian’s back four, as they were missing Giorgio Chiellini, due to injury that he sustained whilst training with the squad. But with the Spaniards playing a 4-3-3 formation, but with a false 9, the Italian centre backs did not know who to mark, with either Isco, David Silva, or youngster, Marco Asensio changing positions during the game.
Looking at the Italian’s, 4-4-2 (when defending) or 4-2-4 (when attacking), formation, it looked like they were going to take it to the Spaniards, but they were unconvincing when going forward, and didn’t cause much of a threat to David de Gea in goal, who had nothing to do all night. The Italians didn’t need a second striker if they were going to sit back and hit the Spaniards on the counter-attack. They needed an extra midfielder, because Daniele de Rossi and Marco Verratti had too much to do, as Busquets, Iniesta and Koke ran rings around them. It was clear that Italy manager, Gian Piero Ventura, got the tactics totally wrong, and would regret it, if they don’t make it to the World Cup in Russia next year. It is certain that they will have to qualify via a tricky play-off in November.
You have to put Spain as one of the favourites because they have a great balance between youth and experience, with many of them being regulars, playing in the Champions League for big clubs. In fact, only two of the 14 players that played a part last night, had not been in a Champions League final. No wonder why they have won a World Cup and two European Championships in the last ten years.
This is why England always fall short at every major tournament. We don’t have the experience, nor the quality to go deep into tournaments. There must be a reason as to why the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich aren’t being linked with English players. Mainly it’s because we don’t have the ability to adapt to different situations in games, and we are so one-dimensional, that it took us more than a half, to score against Malta on Friday night.
However, we are seeing young English players being linked away from England, with 17-year-old Jadon Sancho moving to German side, Borussia Dortmund for around £10million, and was very impressive in the U17 European Championships earlier this year, scoring five goals in the tournament.
The other World Cup favourites are Germany, who won the Confederations Cup without their best players, and they also won the U21 European Championships in June beating Spain. However, it is unlikely that these players will feature much in Russia but it is positive for future major tournaments.
The other major contenders are France, with their brilliant performance against the Netherlands, but Didier Deschamps might struggle with picking his best eleven, because they have so many options, and it’s trying to have a team with the best balance, and players don’t get injured.
The big surprises could be once again, Belgium, who have a strong team, and Portugal, who won Euro 2016, do look quite balanced and look good defensively. However, Portugal are in second place, and might have to qualify via the play-off, but they do play Switzerland, in a top-of-the-table clash next month, and that will most likely decide who will automatically qualify for Russia.
The World Cup is still nine months away, and there are still crucial games left in qualifying, and the draw for next year hasn’t been made. Once that has been completed, then we can have a better idea as to who will be the prime favourites to lift the trophy on the 15th July 2018.