Since Friday’s shock 5-1 World Cup reverse to Group B rivals Netherlands, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has been bombarded with advice about personnel changes he needs to make before Wednesday’s crucial Chile clash.
It remains to be seen whether the genial 63-year-old will make any adjustments following the holders’ woeful second-half performance in their opening match in Salvador but he certainly has plenty of talent to call on if he decides tweaks are needed.
Although the scale of Friday’s thrashing was truly shocking, Del Bosque reacted with much the same calm as when Spain slipped to a 1-0 defeat in their opening game in South Africa four years ago before they went on a six-match winning run that secured their first world title.“We may make two or three changes,” Del Bosque said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Cuatro on Monday.
“If I make changes we are not pointing the finger at anyone,” he added.
“None of the players should be worried, they all have our affection. “But the team is more important than that fondness. We are flexible but we will also keep certain things in place.”
Captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas looks certain to keep his place despite an error-riddled performance against the Dutch when he lost some of the sheen that earned him the nickname “San Iker” in his native country. One area where Del Bosque could introduce fresh blood is in central defence, with the versatile Javi Martinez waiting in the wings to replace either Sergio Ramos or Gerard Pique. Martinez could also come in for Xabi Alonso to bolster central midfield, an area Spain normally dominate effortlessly but where they were brutally exposed on Friday.
Playmaker Xavi, who at 34 is nearing the end of a glittering career, may make way for young pretender Koke, 22, who had a breakthrough season with Atletico Madrid and whom Xavi himself recently named as his natural successor. “Things didn't work out as we wanted (against the Netherlands) but the group is strong and more united that ever, with a lot of desire to play the next match,” Koke said on Spain's official site (www.sefutbol.com) on Monday. “Chile is going to be a very tough opponent but if we match them for intensity and even show more and play as we know how I think that will be key.” Chile forward Esteban Paredes said the South Americans, who began their campaign in Brazil with a laboured 3-1 win against Australia in Cuiaba, had been practising their pressing game before the Spain game in Rio de Janeiro. Chile lost 2-1 to the Spanish in the group stage in South Africa and caused the World and European champions problems in a couple of subsequent friendlies, losing 3-2 in September 2011 and drawing 2-2 last September. “We have played a few matches against Spain,” Paredes said on the Chile team website (www.anfp.cl). “It is going to be a matter of life and death for them and a genuine final for us because a win would practically see us through to the next round,” added the 33-year-old.
“We are working intensively on our pressing game. No team pressures their opponents like we do and against Spain it won't be any different. We are not thinking about going for a draw. We have the mentality to go out and win.” Probable teams: Spain: 1-Iker Casillas, 22-Cesar Azpilicueta, 15-Sergio Ramos, 4-Javi Martinez, 18-Jordi Alba, 14-Xabi Alonso, 16-Sergio Busquets, 20-Santi Cazorla, 8-Xavi, 6-Andres Iniesta, 10-Cesc Fabregas.Chile: 1-Claudio Bravo, 4-Mauricio Isla, 17-Gary Medel, 18-Gonzalo Jara, 2-Eugenio Mena, 21-Marcelo Diaz, 20-Charles Aranguiz, 10-Jorge Valdivia, 8-Arturo Vidal, 7-Alexis Sanchez, 11-Eduardo.