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World Cup 2022: without stars, La Roja still shines

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A choir in unison. No wrong notes, and a mastered score at your fingertips. The spectators of the Al-Thumama stadium in Doha had not come to attend a symphony interpreted by a large choir, yet this is the impression that the Spanish team left them on Wednesday, November 23, during their demonstration. against Costa Rica (7-0) for its entry into the World Cup. Behind the coach-conductor, Luis Enrique, the Spanish project has put the collective above individualities.

“I would use the term ‘choir’, where everyone is on the same level and has the same importance, not just those who play”confirms Carlos Soler, questioned in The Team before facing Germany on Sunday evening. The Spanish midfielder knows what he is talking about: in club, he has been playing at Paris Saint-Germain since the summer of 2022, among the stars Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Lionel Messi. “We don’t have the star that would be above the others, but our strength is to be a real group. »

In Qatar, the only star of Spain is the one embroidered on the jersey: symbol of the title won in 2010 during the South African World Cup – as well as two Euros – by the generation of Iniesta, Xavi, and Casillas . “The golden era of Spanish stars is overobserves Omar Da Fonseca. And we live a lot in the nostalgia of this period. This means that we have great hopes for the small nuggets Pedri and Gavi. » The former Argentine player, now a consultant for BeIN Sports, warns against these excessive expectations.

“Without a regular striker, how far will they go? »

Asked before the World Cup, Da Fonseca underlined the absence of a top scorer in the group drawn up by Luis Enrique. “Spain doesn’t have ‘the’ decisive player. Portugal, France, Belgium or Brazil if, they have players able to press the button to unlock everything. But Spain? They will play very well and have possession, but without a regular scorer, how far will they go? » The memory of Euro 2021 remains, during which the Spaniards had developed a polished game, ultra-dominated the parties, but often left the impression of sterile domination.

Read also (2021): Article reserved for our subscribers Doubts remain on the style of the “Roja”

Since the start of the World Cup, Luis Enrique reveals the back kitchen of his team “every evening, except match days”on his Twitch channel live from the Spanish base camp. Without filter, and without going through the media, with which the whimsical Spanish coach assumes “differences of thought”. After the beating of Costa Rica, the coach did not hesitate to present the bill to them. “I have always read and heard that this team lacked goals, smiled Luis Enrique. However, since I have been in office, we have been one of the teams that have registered the most. » Since taking office, Spain has in fact achieved more than two goals per game, like the other great nations.

For the entry into the running of his Roja, six different players have found the target (Ferran Torres twice, Dani Olmo, Marco Asensio, Carlos Soler, Alvaro Morata and Gavi). A collective force that enchants their very ambitious – both in the game and in the results – coach. “We may not have a player capable of scoring 30 goals, but we have many players capable of scoring. We reach the goal in an associative way. » While having full control of the game. Spain’s 81.78 per cent possession of the ball against Costa Rica is the highest since the World Cup in England in 1966.

The very green players of La Roja – they form the second youngest group in the World Cup, behind the United States – join. “Luis Enrique applies his vision of the game, but within a context where we have been immersed for years”, insists midfielder Rodri. Like Barça, many Spanish teams play in the same style, which facilitates the transition.

Risk taking and pressure

According to Rodri, you don’t need a star to shine. “At the collective level, we are the best team”he assumes. Manchester City midfielder quotes “the mechanisms of all the players, in attack as in defense, the way of thinking about the game, of applying the coach’s ideas” to justify this supremacy.

Against Germany, the Spaniards will be keen to confirm against a team whose coach, Hansi Flick, professes similar game ambitions. And whose squad, heir to the 2014 world champions, also relies above all on its collective.

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“We will play offensively, regardless of the opponent. We go having more of the ball than our rival, we will defend high, beyond the center of the field if necessary. Take a lot of risks, put the pressure on, and we go apply this until the last match of the World Cup”, Professed Luis Enrique when presenting the list of players for the World Cup. Faced with a Germany looking like a wounded beast after its defeat against Japan (1-2), its troops will once again have the opportunity to sing in unison.