Tactical Review: Spain 1-5 Netherlands
— OnsOranje (@OnsOranje) June 13, 2014
Vicente del Bosque’s approachLouis Van Gaal’s approach
When Van Gaal got the job as the Netherlands manager, he quickly ditched the conventional system of playing with four defenders as the Dutch team looked vulnerable with that approach. He has since settled for five defenders with the full-backs acting as wing-backs when they are in possession.
In central midfield, he started with Jonathan De Guzman and Nigel De Jong as holding midfielders. In front of them, Van Gaal had Wesley Sneijder as the transitional player. Sneijder had to link up play between the lines while also acting as the first line of serious pressing when Spain had the ball.
Apart from that overall plan to set-up in a 5-3-2-come-3-4-1-2 formation depending on who had possession, Van Gaal had a key tactical strategy tailor-made for Spain.
When Netherlands had possession, they had to quickly play it wide to the full-backs, particularly to the left where Daley Blind would then launch long diagonal passes to either Robben or Van Persie.
Since Spain’s full-backs both go forward and the remaining two centre-halves push their defensive line high up the pitch when La Roja are in possession, Del Bosque’s side had a nasty surprise waiting.
When the ball was played out wide, the two strikers for Netherlands had to stretch Ramos and Pique before quickly running off the shoulder of these defenders to receive the ball in behind with only Iker Casillas to beat.
Key tactical changes
The game started with Spain looking sharp in possession, particularly in the first-half, but Van Gaal’s men worked hard to close down spaces.
Offensively, that training ground move initially wasn’t effective thanks to the offsides against Van Persie and Robben, but when it started to come off it changed the game as the Netherlands produced a stunning comeback.
From then on, La Roja just unravelled as they lost their hunger to keep the ball for longer. In any game, Spain are usually poor without the ball so Del Bosque’s men kept conceding.
The manager tried to change things with an offensive double substitution, which left Busquets as the single pivot. Iniesta tucked in behind Fernando Torres to allow Pedro Rodriguez to take the left wing position, while Cesc Fabregas replaced David Silva on the right wing.
It hardly changed a thing as the defending champions were resigned to ending their nightmare start to the 2014 World Cup campaign as quickly as possible.