On Tuesday 6th December, Spain will go head-to-head with North Africa’s Morocco in the Round of 16 at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. With that, we’re taking a look at La Roja’s predicted starting 11.
Spain knows what its working with
If we go back to the day before the World Cup started, you might remember how journalists laughed when Spain head coach Luis Enrique declared, “If anyone’s going to beat us at the World Cup, they’ll really have to be on their game.” What’s funny, is that the laughter at the time wasn’t because Enrique’s words were seen as ridiculous, but rather because it was cheeky of him to say it. Of course, some may argue that Japan might have something to say about that notion, but in truth the Blue Samurai did exactly what Enrique said would be required. The loss was La Roja’s first defeat in normal time at a major tournament since the Round of 16 at Euro 2016. At any rate, that’s a digression from the point, which is that Spain is probably the most complete team in Qatar and it’s going to take something very special from Morocco to beat them. On that note, let’s take a look at the 11 that Enrique is expected to go with.
Spain’s Predicted Starting 11
For starters, we can expect to see Enrique once again employing a 4-3-3 system. For the tournament so far, the combination of Barca’s trio in midfield – Pedri, Sergio Busquets and Gavi – has proven to be mechanically efficient in its capacity to retain the ball and create chances. If we take Japan for example, despite their shocking victory they were only able to register 17% possession in the game, a record low. None the less, let’s break down La Roja’s starters:
GK: Unai Simon
Despite some questionable decisions against Japan, Simon has proven himself to be solid between the sticks since that fateful semi-finals run in the European Championships in 2021. Needless to say, he will have to be at his best against a Morocco side that has shown itself to be blessed with players who possess a great deal of technique.
RB: Dani Carvajal
The Real Madrid veteran still ranks among the best wing backs in the world, but it’s worth noting that just six minutes after his half-time introduction, Spain had conceded two goals against Japan. We imagine, he’ll be hoping for a better ride when Tuesday rolls around.
It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the Manchester City man this year. Following his high profile move from Atletico Madrid, he’s not always been as solid as was expected. With that said, he’s been most definitely so in Qatar. Having recently admitted that the team was in a panic over the possibility that they might be eliminated, we can imagine that he and his teammates will be as focused as ever to ensure that doesn’t happen.
CB: Aymeric Laporte
Curiously, once admitted that he’s “not a football addict” and as such, isn’t bogged down by minor details. “Honestly, when I play for City,” he said recently, “I don’t even know what time kick-off is.” La Roja fans will be hoping he remembers his tasks on Tuesday.
LB: Jordi Alba
The FC Barcelona wing back is La Liga’s all-time leading assist-maker among defenders and has already created two goals in Qatar. As one of the few surviving members of Spain’s World Cup winning side from 2010, Alba’s presence is as valuable in terms of stabilizing the locker room as it is on the field.
Outrageous, sublime, one-of-a-kind. These are just some of the words and phrases used to describe Barcelona’s prodigious 20-year-old midfielder. A FIFA Golden Boy winner, Pedri has continued to shine whenever he has played. To put matters in perspective, he’s currently completed more passes into the final third (44) at this World Cup than the entire Moroccan team combined (42). That’s just silly.
CM: Sergio Busquets
Another remnant of La Roja’s all-conquering 2010 team, Busquets has done what Busquets does – retain the ball. Though it would be fair to say that he’s not been as sharp as he once was – Japan exposed him to an extent – it would also be fair to say, that the veteran remains a key part of the Spanish setup. It would be a genuine surprise if Enrique doesn’t start him.
2022′s FIFA Golden Boy is as talented as his partner in crime, Pedri. At the tender age of 18-years-old, the gutsy midfielder is the youngest player on the Spanish squad though he plays like one of its most mature. Clearly the owner of two gifted feet when it comes to the attack, the FC Barcelona player is also not afraid to bite when it comes to defense. Morocco will need to keep an eye on him.
RW: Ferran Torres
While there is no doubt that the winger is talented and has a decent eye for goal, there are many who believe it’s consistency that he lacks. In truth, if one criticism could be made about the Spanish team it would have to be their offensive production relative to the number of chances they create. Though they opened with a big win against Costa Rica, it was expected. A 1-1 draw with Germany and the 2-1 upset against Japan demonstrated that this is a side that’s not scoring as freely as they would like. The Barcelona man is to an extent responsible for that.
ST: Alvaro Morata
Another member of the scrutinized Spanish attack, Morata is perhaps the one who doesn’t deserve it. With a goal in each group game, he’s the first Spaniard to score in his first three appearances at the men’s World Cup since the legendary figure of Telmo Zarra in 1950. Indeed, the Atletico Madrid forward has proven himself to be a true No. 9 and Spain will no doubt be counting on him to continue his scoring form come Tuesday.
LW: Dani Olmo
Olmo’s performances at RB Leipzig seemed to suggest that we were witnessing the birth of a truly dangerous winger. Where the national team is concerned, however, he’s been a little less stellar. Indeed, no player at this stage in the tournament has as many failed dribbling attempts (13) than La Roja’s left-sided attacker. That’ll need to improve when they face Morocco.