MOSCOW (AP) — With Spain expecting Russia to sit back and defend in numbers, speed and attack will be crucial in their last-16 match at the World Cup.
One of the players the 2010 champions will be relying on to cut through the host’s back line is David Silva.
He scored for Spain in its 3-0 win over Russia in the semifinals of the European Championship in 2008, the last time the two teams played in a competitive fixture.
“Sometimes these teams ‘park the bus’ in front of us and it’s hard to handle,” he said through an interpreter Saturday. “If we play very fast up front, we’ll have more options and generate spaces in which we can hurt them.”
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After tough matches in a group also containing Portugal, Iran and Morocco, Silva and coach Fernando Hierro both called on Spain to be more meticulous and cut down on errors.
“It was a very tough group and we need to minimize our mistakes. That’s the key,” Silva said. “If in difficult matches we start handing out goals to the opposition, things are going to be difficult for us, so we need to tighten up our defending.”
The winner of the match goes on to face either Croatia or Denmark in the quarterfinals.
Hierro never expected to be leading Spain into the knockout stages of this World Cup — at least not until his predecessor Julen Lopetegui was fired as coach two days before the tournament began.
Despite that disruption, Hierro said Spain has been able to do detailed research on its opponents, and Russia is no different. He stressed that his team will need to counter Russia’s physical strength and their success at set pieces.
“So we need to find their weak points and where we can hurt them,” Hierro said through an interpreter.
Plans can change, and he noted that Russia has switched up its style since the two teams drew 3-3 last year.
“We’re not going to lose any sleep over all these variables,” Hierro said. “I have done all the work I could and I have a team which can adapt to any situation. That’s our strength.”
More AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/WorldCup