Spain's decision to play without a striker may become a footnote in the record books but coach Vicente del Bosque's decision backfired as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Italy in their Euro 2012 Group C game on Sunday.
There were raised eyebrows when the world and European champions' lineup was announced and the name of Champions League winner Fernando Torres and even Fernando Llorente was missing.
|Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque shouts instructions to his players during their Group C Euro 2012 soccer match against Italy at the PGE Arena in Gdansk, June 10, 2012. Photo: REUTERS|
Instead Del Bosque fielded a frontline comprising David Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta.
The Spaniards, despite controlling possession, struggled for most of the game to penetrate the Italian back line, mainly because there was no one to break it down.
"What we wanted to do was look for superiority in the midfield and we know that Fabregas and Silva have the ability to get into scoring positions," Del Bosque said. "It didn't work out too badly and Fabregas did some great work."
But in terms of chances they had only a few glimpses of Andres Iniesta's offensive creativity to show for their efforts before Italy took a somewhat deserved lead just after the hour.
Spain levelled through Fabregas foour minutes later with a classic centre forward move but it was far too little for a team that had won 14 competitive games in a row until Sunday.
"The first one to be surprised (that there was no striker) was me but I was pleased to be given a chance as I have not really played much in more than a month," Fabregas said.
It was only when Torres, who has been far less effective for Spain than injured first choice striker David Villa, was brought on 16 minutes from time that their offensive game caught fire even if the forward wasted two clear scoring chances.
He instantly drew two Italian defenders on to him, allowing his team mates far more space.
Spain should have added another goal after his introduction and walked away as winners in their opening game but the draw was deserved for a Spanish team that would not have dared to play without a forward if Villa was at the tournament.