Analyzing the Spain vs Brazil: The importance of the wings

April 12, 2024, 10:31 a.m.

Analyzing the Spain vs Brazil: The importance of the wings

Under the slogan "One skin", a friendly match was held on March 26 between the world champion teams, Spain and Brazil, to prepare for and combat racism and violence in soccer. This event occurred at the Santiago Bernabéu, in a thrilling match ending in a three-goal draw.

Despite being a friendly match, the intensity and effort shown on the field were worthy of a competitive match rather than a friendly exhibition.
Focusing on the match itself, it is important to highlight some key aspects of the Spanish national team's performance ahead of the upcoming European Championship to be held this summer. While it is true that the version of Brazil they faced was not at its best, as evidenced by their previous results in World Cup qualifying (3 draws and 1 loss in 4 matches), this match was an important test of the current level of the team coached by Luis de la Fuente.
The first thing we noticed in this match is that the coach lined up, except for some absences due to injuries, what will probably be the team's starting eleven at the European Championship. Although Spain is still a team that likes to ruminate matches and control the ball, it is undeniable that the decrease in quality or talent in the midfield has required the use of different profiles.

It seems that there are players who are shaping up to be starters for the European Championship, provided there are no injuries. They include Unai, Laporte, Le Normand, Carvajal, Gayá/Grimaldo, Rodri, Fabián/Merino, Olmo, Nico, Yamal and Morata. In this starting eleven, two players stand out, not counting Curbasí, who is the youngest player in the current squad and has earned their place. They have managed to get De La Fuente to change the main idea of the National Team, which had been maintained since the golden age more than a decade ago.
In the last two important games played by Spain, the round of 16 of the World Cup against Morocco and the final of the Nations League against Croatia, both games in which the team failed to score and which were decided in a penalty shootout, the flanks were occupied by Olmo/Ferrán and Pino/Asensio. Of these four players, only Yeremi has a more wide profile and a more wide profile. Traditionally, the strategy has been to place players on the flanks who tend to move towards the centre and who have a great associative capacity. However, this tactic limited the team's ability to score goals against opponents who defended very tightly and in a low block. The inclusion and, above all, the performance of these two young players - Yamal is still a teenager - has completely transformed the team's game plan and systems.

Therefore, we will analyze, taking the recent Brazil game as an example, why the current national team is relying mainly on the talent and playfulness of two youngsters whose main skill is the overflow.

Using Longomatch, we will examine how the team generated danger mainly from the flanks. First, let's look at the team's positioning:

As can be seen in the image, Rodri occupies the midfield position, while Fabián and, especially, Olmo, move more freely. However, it is noteworthy that Yamal and Nico stay open and close to the flanks, thus widening the field and generating more space. This arrangement allows Rodri, Fabián and Olmo to move into more central positions with greater ease.

The following two situations from the match clearly illustrate the importance of both Nico and Lamine in Spain's offensive scheme:

In this first image, we can see how Rodri, who leads the Spanish play, looks for Nico Williams, who has all the space on the flank thanks to Fabián's break to the inside, who drags the fullback. Meanwhile, Morata and Olmo keep the central defenders busy. Although this opportunity culminated in a cross that did not find a finisher, it shows the importance of the flanks in the Spanish attack. Rodri is always on the lookout for the option to play on the flanks, while his teammates try to drag the defence with them to leave as much space as possible for Lamine and Nico.

In this second image, which shows the situation culminating in the penalty kick taken by Lamine and converted by Rodri, we again witness a scenario in which the play is centred on the left flank of the Spanish attack. In this case, Rodri is looking to switch play to the opposite flank, where Lamine has all the space he needs to play his game.

In the continuation of the previous image, once Lamine receives the ball, he finds himself with the entire flank to himself, with virtually no support and with the attackers waiting around the penalty spot. At first glance, this situation may not seem advantageous for the team. However, during the match, it appears to be deliberate. De La Fuente relies heavily on Nico and Yamal's ability to run free and looks to provide them with scenarios where they can display their talents and generate advantages from there. In fact, in this play, Lamine manages to get past his defender, penetrate the box and earn a penalty.

Another of the many situations that occurred in the game of a Spanish player switching play to the other flank so that, in this case, Nico could take advantage of his speed and ability to generate danger. On this occasion, Nico managed to get into the box and create a great scoring opportunity that unfortunately did not materialize.
Another example of the advantages provided by these offensive mechanisms is that they allow players like Olmo to more easily reach attacking positions in the centre, where they feel very comfortable.

As can be seen in this image before Olmo's goal, after Yamal moves towards the centre, Morata opens up to the wing to force the fullback to follow him, allowing Olmo, who was coming from an offside position, to get back into the centre by beating the centre back. Lamine then finds him with a pass that breaks through the Brazilian defence. Despite the defensive efforts, Olmo manages to unravel masterfully in the opponent's area, making a pass and a move that leaves the Brazilian defence sold and scores the second goal.

While it is true that defensively, more due to moments of lack of concentration than to continuous performance, Spain suffered and conceded three goals, something that must be improved for the Euro, it is clear that offensively, the inclusion of Nico (5 completed dribbles) and Lamine (6 completed dribbles) as starters on the wings provides the team with possibilities and offensive variants that it has not had in a long time. It will be interesting to see how the team performs in the future and if the level of Nico and Lamine is maintained in the coming months and during the Eurocup, where every game will be decisive.

Both players are indeed very young, 21 and 16 years old respectively, and we should not overload them with too many expectations. However, Luis de la Fuente has made it clear that they are key players in Spain's present and will surely be the ones who will most excite Spanish fans with their participation in the European Championship.


Luis Cordero
Sales Analyst at Longomatch
Basketball coach and analyst



*All images are taken from the Longomatch video analysis tool.