Cruyff: Italy surprised, Spain strategised

Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff enjoyed Euro 2012, especially the way with which Italy rose to the fore and how Spain coach Vicente del Bosque sprung tactical surprises.

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By ESPNSTAR.com staff

Plaudits have rained aplenty from all across Europe for Spain who vanquished Italy 4-0 in Sunday's final following up their Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 triumph with yet another trophy. But much of the discussion has also centred on the tactical methods used by the treble winning side as they have deviated from the tiki-taka philosophy that won them the trophy four years ago, and now employ a slower form of the system utilising a "false nine". 

In some ways, it's similar to the style of "Total Football" espoused by the Netherlands squad of the 1970s led by Cruyff wherein each player was instructed to adopt a number of roles during a game. In that manner, the Spanish midfield became a second line of defence and the players also became makeshift attackers with a conventional striker rarely being utilised in their successful defence of the title. 

Some critics derided the focus on possession-based football as even opposing sides were prevented opportunities to carry out attempts at goal with the criticism largely centering on how Del Bosque's men made the game laborious to watch. But the former Dutch international pointed out that both sides brought much to the table and he revealed at being impressed by both Italy's renaissance and Del Bosque's tinkering abilities in the tournament. 

"During the tournament I really enjoyed Italy, even more so because you don't expect this from them," he wrote in his column on De Telegraaf.

"It's a great job from the Italy coach, who dared to play a new style. It's fascinating to see how the Italians became better every game. Because of that Andrea Pirlo became so good he could pass the ball to three players instead of just one.

"I'm also a big fan of Vicente del Bosque, even if I don't always agree with his choices. 

"His decision to play with two defensive midfielders was hard for Xavi and Xabi Alonso, who had trouble because they had a player less in front of them.

"They had to play the ball too often to the side instead of to the front. That's also the reason why Spain had a lot of possession in midfield. They controlled the way to play with a simple ball, which is still a great weapon because of the ball speed.

"What I like about Del Bosque is that he changed his tactics when it looked like it would go wrong. That's why he changed his tactics sometimes three or four times during a match. He's a real strategist and I like to see that.

"As Spain showed this tournament, it's the hardest way to play simple football."

Cesare Prandelli will continue as manager of the Azzurri and will next field his side against England in a friendly on August 15. The reigning World and European Champions play a friendly against Puerto Rico on the same day as well. 



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