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The Roar


Believe it: Australia CAN beat Spain

If the Socceroos win the aerial battle, they can beat Spain. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)
Roar Pro
3rd June, 2014
2231 Reads

If the Socceroos are still alive after their first two games in this month’s World Cup, they should feel confident of progressing to the knock-out rounds.

Their final match is against Spain. Believe it or not, the defending champions are beatable.

Teams of Australia’s quality have beaten Spain in recent big tournaments and they’ve done so using very similar tactics.

In the 2009 Confederations Cup, the USA beat Spain 2-0. The next year at the World Cup, Switzerland defeated the eventual champions 1-0. The Spanish, who have not altered their style of play or personnel significantly since then, have a clear weakness and Australia can exploit it just as the Americans and the Swiss did.

The USA and Switzerland both defended deep and narrowly, while the midfield protected the space in front of the centre-backs. They left space on the wings but they were happy to let the Spanish whip in crosses.

Switzerland’s centre-back Stephane Grichting could handle aerial battles against David Villa, who is 5 foot 7. America’s Oguchi Onyewu loved heading away every cross while marking Fernando Torres. They kept Spain scoreless by forcing them to play to their weakness. They did not have a striker who could win a header.

The defenders mentioned are perhaps superior to Matthew Spiranovic of the Western Sydney Wanderers, who is likely to start for Australia at the World Cup, but they are not world class. If Australia forces the Spanish to cross and pressures their midfielders centrally, they can stifle them.

Spiranovic could be a hero if all he has to do is beat Torres or Villa in the air. If Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak prevent Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Co. from threading their trademark through balls, Australia can expect to keep the scoring down.


Milligan and Jedinak are the perfect combination to stop the Spanish playmakers from playing the way they want. They are big, athletic, mentally strong and aggressive. Jedinak was in the WhoScored Premier League XI of the season, such is his destructive ability. Those two can form a wall in front of the centre-backs and force Spain wide.

Furthermore, Xavi and Iniesta are coming off ordinary seasons by their standards. They looked tired during the latter stages of the season.

Diego Costa, Spain’s Brazilian-born forward, could be the game changer. He wasn’t officially Spanish until very recently, and he thrives in the air. He’s also carrying a hamstring and may not be fit to play. Fernando Llorente could have posed an aerial threat too, given his height, but he has missed out on the squad.

Australia will most likely come up against Villa or Torres, just as Switzerland and the USA did. If so, Australia have a very obvious way of stopping them score. There is of course the small matter of Australia having to find a way to goal themselves. And the matches against Chile and The Netherlands.

Australia’s World Cup could be over by the time Game 3 comes around. If it is isn’t though, they should feel confident they can get a result against Spain.