After underwhelming performance against Czech Republic and Croatia, Spain and Turkey face off against each other in a match of two sides who both possess terrific technical quality within their ranks. Vicente del Bosque and Faith Terim are two experienced managers who have seen it all, in the meeting in Nice, the pair will look to get the best of each other.
The Spaniards used their trademark 4-3-3 formation. De Gea in goals. Juanfran, Pique, Ramos and Alba made up the back-four. A midfield trio was of Busquets, Fabregas and Iniesta. The three forwards were David Silva, Álvaro Morata and Nolito.
A positive Turkey line-up saw a single change from their first match of the tournament, Burak Yilmaz taking the place of Tosun as striker. Babacan was the goalkeeper. In front of him was a defence of Gonul, Mehmet Topal, Balta and Erkin. The three central midfielders were the promising Ozan Tufan and Oguzhan Ozyakup, who were either side of the more experienced Selcuk Inan. On either wing was Calhanoglu and Arda Turan. While as a previously mentioned, Yilmaz played as 9.
Spain’s Full-Back’s High Positioning has an Impact
As is usually the case when a team is very dominant in possession, as well as having strong territory, full-backs move into more advanced positions on the wing. This was certainly the case with Spain against Turkey and perhaps more so than expected, the advanced positioning of Juanfran and Jordi Alba during Spain possession played quite a large part.
First of all, we will look at the positive impact Juanfran and Alba’s positioning had on Spain’s performance. With Spain having two wide players who operate best coming off the wing, in David Silva and Nolito, this gave either full-back the whole wing to themselves, as well as allowing Silva and Nolito to occupy another zone situationally due to ‘their area’ being occupied. Silva and Nolito point usually chose at this point to move into the halfspace if the ball was on their wing. With Turkey deploying a flat midfield five with no staggering, this often meant the player in the halfspace had space in between the lines. Spain used horizontal line-splitters against Czech Republic very often, finding Iniesta to great effect a number of times.
Against Turkey, this was again used, in order to exploit the space left by their lack of out and out defensive midfielder who sat between defence and midfield, to limit space between lines.
The second impact of Spain’s high full-backs was this time a more negative one. Although for Barcelona Sergio Busquets drops between two split centre-backs during build-up, to offer stability, for Spain, he doesn’t do so as frequently. This centre-backs still split, though less stability is offered as Busquets is obviously instructed to remain in midfield, where he is strongest. This meant that if Yilmaz blocked a pass from one CB to the other, and a pass into midfield was also blocked or the ball-near midfielder was marked, the only option was the ball-near full-back, or to do the forbidden under Del Bosque and knock it long. Turkey’s wide midfielders prevented the first though, pressing Pique and Ramos at an angle to block connections with the full-backs.
In the opening stages, while Turkey pressed very high in an attempt to unease Spain, this was very effective. As the game went on though this wasn’t so effective, as Turkey fatigued and dropper deeper, it was tougher for them to engage in press higher and block lanes effectively.
The third impact the positioning of Juanfran and Jordi Alba again only really played a part in the early moments of the game. With the pairing more often than not being based in the final third, there was always the threat of a counter-attack looming. Turkey looked to exploit this in the early stages, Calhanoglu and Turan frequently looked to dribble into the space left on the wing by Spain’s now out-of-position full-backs. Neither really had the pace to take full advantage of the situation though and were often delayed, allowing Spain to recover into their standard defensive shape.
After their initial high pressure, Turkey dropped into a relatively deep 4-5-1 for the rest of the match. This obviously wouldn’t be so easily for Spain to penetrate should Turkey get their spacing correct, which the Turks did for the majority of the first 30 minutes.
Turkey defended in 4-5-1, with the one, Yilmaz, being assigned to almost no defensive role, so we will simply focus on the 4-5. The formation was very flat, with no staggering out of possession.
Inan, the most defensive of the three central-midfielders remained on the same line as the rest of midfield. This left some space between the 4 and the 5, but it wasn’t a case of creating space for Spain, it was a case of accessing it.
David Silva, arguably Spain’s most creative player, often dropped deep on the right wing, while Juanfran moved into Silva’s standard position high on the wing. As Silva received the ball, this was tempting for Arda Turan to press Silva near the touchline, but Silva was ready. He would quickly dribble infield diagonally, towards Ozyakup who couldn’t risk leaving his position. It was too late though, as Turan had opened up a large enough lane for Silva to play a needle pass into a receiver in between the lines.
Another way of inviting Turkey into a press, to open up the space between the lines even further, making it easier to access, was for Spain to play ‘negative passes’ back towards their own centre-backs, if their possession in the final third wasn’t dangerous. This lured Turkey out of their deep block as with Spain facing their own goal, it looked a good pressing opportunity. This quickly changed though, as Iniesta dropped deep to provide further stability, Spain would look to circulate the ball to him, then utilise his ball-carrying abilities. With Turkey’s momentum fully on moving forward, Iniesta was able to catch them on their back foot and dribble penetrate the press into a large space. He was then often able to drive straight at the centre of the Turkey defence.
A 3-0 victory was certainly deserved for a Spain side who looked back to their best in their road to retaining the Euro Championship. Del Bosque’s men effectively used their possession, which couldn’t be said of their 2014 World Cup campaign, where we saw the largely ineffective Tiki-Taka style of football. The penetration we saw from the Spaniards was excellent, even if Turkey’s weak defence did them a few favours along the way.
Spain are now guaranteed a place in the last 16 of the tournament, now giving them the opportunity to rest a few fatigued players after a long season with their clubs, in preparation of their next fixture, which is sure to be of far more significant and surely difficulty.