Lifestyle November, 24th 2009 by

Spain on their way to South Africa


Spain manage to finally overcome their World Cup jink and triumph in South Africa, then they will become the smallest ever team to win the world crown.

In the 1990s, Spain manager Javier Clemente seemed obsessed with building a physically strong Seleccion’ built around big men like Fernando Hierro, Miguel Angel Nadal, Julio Salinas and Fernando Hierro. This heavyweight team won nothing and impressed nobody.

The team built by Luis Aragones from 2004 to 2008 changed the emphasis to versatile ball-players who can dominate possession and create countless chances with their slick, patient passing game.

Every country must play to its strengths,’ he said in 2005, and our strength lies in our skilful little midfielders.’

This approach won admiration at the 2006 World Cup, when La Roja’ swept through the first round imperiously. In the round of 16, however, they were unceremoniously pushed aside by a physically imposing French side.

But two years later Aragones Diddy Men’ triumphed impressively at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva weaving pretty patterns ­ and with David Villa and Fernando Torres firing the bullets.

Aragones left in a strop for Fenerbahce straight after the Vienna waltz, annoyed at not being offered a new contract. Vicente del Bosque has wisely stuck by the little men and was rewarded with a perfect World Cup qualifying campaign, the first time that a European team has won all of its matches in a six-team group.

Del Bosque has beefed up his defence with the towering Gerard Pique, but Diddy Men’ like Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol are still the key elements at the back, whilst the diminutive Xavi continues to be the midfield fulcrum.

And there are two more little guys waiting in the wings for their chance: young Sevilla wingers Jesus Navas and Diego Capel.

Navas, 23, has been winning rave reviews since 2005 but has not been picked for La Roja’ because of the anxiety attacks that afflict him at the start of every season.

However, he said last week that was was now completely ready’ for international football, and Del Bosque will surely try him out in the pre-World Cup friendlies.

Navas is fast, direct and skilful – and could turn out to be Del Bosques secret weapon in South Africa.

The Coach:

Vicente del Bosque, 58, was an elegant midfielder for Real Madrid in the 1970s. He was promoted from the back room to become Real coach in 1999 and proved to be a surprise success, winning two Champions Leagues and two Spanish Ligas before being harshly sent packing in 2003.

He is popular with the players because of his calm, low-key approach, and ­ unlike the volatile Aragones ­ manages to handle the media with dignified aplomb.

Simon Schönbeck

A serial entrepreneur and Founder of this very site.

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