El Salvador’s secret to reign over Spain
IF Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou wants the secret to shutting down World Cup champions and Group B opponents Spain in Brazil, he need look no further than the tiny central American nation of El Salvador.
Ranked 68 in the world, six places below Australia which goes into the World Cup as the lowest-ranked nation, El Salvador kept Spain's glittering array of goal-scoring weapons at bay for 60 minutes in a friendly last week, before going down 2-0.
Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque said his team preferred to play an up-tempo game that gave his world class line-up time and space to work its magic.
"That's not what we expect in the World Cup, but if we do see that, we're always looking to find space and make the initiative and be attacking the ball," he said.
"We need to have better creativity, be able to have better chances in the attacking third. We always want to be on the attack and to control the pace of the game."
In the end it took a brace from Spain's leading all-time international scorer, David Villa, who will play 10 games as a guest signing for Melbourne City (formerly Melbourne Heart), in the next A-League season, to set up the victory.
Del Bosque said while he respected the teams Spain had drawn in the group stage - Australia, Netherlands and Chile - he did not fear them.
"We're very optimistic after our training and two friendly matches," he said.
"We are meeting our expectations. We are confident heading into the World Cup."
Spain will open its campaign against the Netherlands on Saturday morning, three hours before Australia plays its opening match against Chile.
Star Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal is still in doubt for the match after having knee surgery last month.
The Juventus favourite, nicknamed "The Warrior" because of his high work rate, was a last-minute inclusion in the squad after being unable to train in the weeks prior to selection.
He came on as a substitute in the 76th minute in last week's friendly against Northern Ireland, and immediately had a hand in setting up Chile's first goal, that also involved Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez.
Sanchez showed his class again four minutes later when he set up Mauricio Pinilla for the sealer.
Chile's coach Jorge Sampoali said Vidal's cameo suggested he would be in the team to play the Socceroos, but whether he would start the match was another question.
- APN SPORTS BUREAU
Opening Group B matches:
Saturday, 5am: Spain v Netherlands in Salvador
Saturday, 8am: Australia v Chile in Cuiaba
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