Spain cruise past Tahiti

In a game billed as the mismatch of the tournament, the only question was whether Spain would take it easy on Tahiti or keep their foot on the gas out of respect for the sport. Spain answered that question with 10 goals, despite never really hitting top gear. Fernando Torres missed a penalty but still scored four, David Villa had a hat trick, and Juan Mata and David Silva (twice) were also on the scoresheet for La Roja.

With 10 changes from the squad that beat Uruguay 2-1, Spain started slowly and didn’t look properly focused. The midfield and attack was comprised of almost entirely foreign-based players, with David Villa the lone exception. Perhaps it is due to the different style of play in the Premier League, where most of the players ply their trade, but Spain’s “B team” did not look nearly as adept at tiki-taka as the mostly Barcelona-based side did on Sunday. After having 75% possession against Uruguay, Spain could only manage 67% tonight.

The reduced possession for the Spanish was also a result of Tahiti’s tactical strategy. The huge underdogs packed the middle of the field, playing very narrow with a high defensive line. It was much more of an end-to-end game, and Spain’s chances came mostly from balls through the middle or over the top and crosses from out wide. The offside trap worked a few times for the Tahitians but also allowed David Villa and Fernando Torres to get in behind on several occasions with chances on goal. Torres got the first goal early but La Roja struggled a bit in the opening 30 minutes.

Eventually, Spain found a rhythm and it went from 1-0 to 4-0 in less than ten minutes. In the 31st minute, Villa came across the top of the box and fed Silva, who made a nice run and finished around the Tahitian keeper. Two minutes later, Torres beat the offside trap and took a nice touch to beat the onrushing keeper, finishing with a simple pass into the back of the net. Not long after, Silva returned the favor with a low cross into the path of Villa, and El Guaje finished nicely to make it 4-0.

Jesús Navas replaced Sergio Ramos at half time and Spain came out a bit sharper. It didn’t take long for La Roja to record another goal, with Villa scoring in the 49th minute off a cross from Nacho Monreal. Navas was very lively on the right wing and found Torres in the 57th minute for 6-0. A huge mistake by the goalkeeper gifted David Villa the easiest of goals in the 64th minute, and Juan Mata got his name on the scoresheet two minutes later to make it 8 to nil for the Spaniards.

Spain were awarded a penalty in the 76th minute after a handball in the box, but Torres’ shot rebounded off the crossbar. The Chelsea man atoned for it just minutes later with his fourth goal of the match. Finally, Silva scored his second of the match with just minutes to full time to make it a double digit victory, but the Manchester City playmaker couldn’t be bothered to celebrate.

It is difficult to draw any definitive conclusions from this game. David Silva looked bright starting on the right side of the field, notching a goal and an assist in the first half, and Spain’s 10th goal in garbage time. However, the player Silva would likely replace in the starting XI is Cesc Fàbregas, who performed very well against Uruguay. Mata and Santi Cazorla were a bit sloppy with their passes at times, and are definitely not going to oust Xavi and Iniesta when it matters most. Torres and Villa both looked motivated and scored plenty of goals, but unfortunately the two players they could replace, Pedro and Soldado, scored against Uruguay in a game that obviously had more meaning. Torres’ missed penalty definitely didn’t help his chances, while Villa may have gained some important confidence from his performance.

It may have been a record goalscoring performance, but that won’t mean anything to the Spanish if they don’t go on and win the tournament. La Roja should be tested a bit more in their final group game against Nigeria, and will likely face the loser of Brazil – Italy in the semi finals.

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Filed under International Football, Soccer

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