Spain facing Italy was arguably the most hyped international friendly of the day as the two nations recently met twice competitively: a Spanish 4-0 win in the EURO 2012 final, and another match that they won on penalty kicks after a goalless draw in the Confederation Cup semis.
Basically, this is always a must-watch.
The game started out with both sides playing in a 4-3-3 as the Italians looked to match the Spanish mastermind when it comes to that formation. To be fair, the Italians held nothing back as they even managed to stun the defense and the keeper as Alessio Cerci saw his cross from right flank rock the crossbar.
They played this formation unexpectedly as they usually stick with three guys in the back. Regardless, they held their own for the most part as they were still able to create offense with one more guy helping out the back line.
The good news for Spain is that debutant Diego Costa is fitting right in. In fact, he has brought a much-needed toughness in the lone striker spot. He can hold up the ball, take shots with his feet and head while also knowing when to run back to help out his midfield. Even though he was unable to score, he still proved that he will be a strength for his club and a thorn to the defenses he will face internationally.
Even though the Italians lost, they still have a lot to build on as they now know what they need to do in order to keep faster and stronger offensive-minded teams at bay: do not attack as much, sit back and try to hit from the counter … even with the 4-3-3. The goal that Pedro Rodriguez scored was due to a mistimed sliding clearance as the defender tried to block a shot, which led him to kick the ball to the wide open winger who slotted home. It was a goal that is eaten for breakfast by the reigning world and European champions.
Another thought for Spain is that having David Silva in the game adds a bit more fluidity with possession in the final third as he always bravely dribbles right at opponents or finds a teammate to pass the ball to. Moving the ball swiftly and accurately always gives the team in possession the best chance of scoring. The champions do this most of the time, which why they keep on winning.
If Italy or another nation that has a great chance of winning the World Cup want to get past Spain, they need to learn to give them a taste of their own medicine, no matter how difficult it will be.