Time to drop Casillas for De Gea – Netherlands v Spain takeaways

Thomas Woods writes Iker Casillas revealed his inferiority to Manchester United's David de Gea on Friday night and offers two more pointers from Netherlands' 5-1 thrashing.

Arjen Robben, centre, shoots to score for Netherlands as Iker Casillas, left, watches, on Friday night in Netherlands' 5-1 win over Spain at the 2014 World Cup. Damien Meyer / AFP / June 13, 2014
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How can you possibly win the World Cup after losing your opening game 5-1? Spain have to find the answer to that question when they wake up on Saturday morning and start preparing for their next Group B game, against Chile on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana. They will take some solace in the fact that they also lost their opener in 2010 - when they were sucker punched by Switzerland in a 1-0 defeat - and still went on to lift the trophy.

Here are three more pointers from Friday night’s 5-1 victory for the Netherlands:

Del Bosque has show too much faith in Casillas

Iker Casillas has 154 caps for Spain and has won it all for Real Madrid. But consecutive Madrid managers - Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti - saw fit to drop the Bernabeu legend and play Diego Lopez instead. Have they seen something Spain’s Vicente del Bosque hasn’t?

Every Spain player was poor against the Netherlands, but Casillas was at fault for two of the goals.

He was caught out by a corner when Stefan de Vrij made it 3-1 and his poor control gifted Robin van Persie a fourth. Casillas almost cost Madrid the Champions League final too, when he was again found wanting at a corner for Atletico Madrid’s goal. And his footwork on Friday night was particularly poor. He looked rusty, like a guy who hadn’t played regularly last season.

Casillas was not helped by his defence which had conceded just six times in 19 tournament games before last night. Gerard Pique, who was also below-par for Barcelona this season, was the main culprit. He was caught out several times up field, including for Robben’s second.

It is a major decision switching your goalkeeper, much more important than any outfield selection choice, but now is the time for Del Bosque to act and take Casillas out of the firing line. Perhaps if Victor Valdes, the Barcelona stopper who is leaving the club on a free transfer, was fit then the change would already have been made. As it is, Del Bosque still has two quality options on the bench.

There is Pepe Reina, fresh off a fine season with Napoli and possessing bags of high-pressure experience. But Del Bosque should turn to David de Gea, the uber confident Manchester United keeper who was about the only bright spark in the English Premier League side’s season. He has the nerves and ability to step straight into the limelight and take the pressure off a key position.

Counter attack a Van Gaal masterstroke

Sitting back and hitting Spain on the break is not a unique tactic. In fact, pretty much every team opts to play that way against them. But Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands manager, may have found a formation that is just about perfect for his Netherlands side. The Dutch struggled with tactics and formations in their warm-up fixtures for Brazil. On Friday night, Van Gaal played the rarely-seen 5-3-2, which became 3-4-3 when the full backs pushed up.

The Dutch were far from solid at the back in the first half, but as the game progressed they grew into the formation. The full backs were the key. Daley Blind on the left set up the first two goals and Daryl Janmaat was tireless down the right. Their energy gave the world-class trio of Robben, Van Persie and Wesley Snjeider the time and space to create things. It paid off.

The beauty of the Dutch’s counter-attacking tactics is that they appear to be made for the warmer climates in Brazil. While football scholars preach possession, there is a lot to be said for sitting back on the break and soaking up pressure, before unleashing a rapid counter attack.

The five-man defence, plus the centre-midfield duo of Jonathan de Guzman and Nigel del Jong means the attacking trio don’t have to do much defensive pressing. They conserve their energy, bide their time, wait for their teammates to win possession and ... bang. It worked a treat against Spain.

Spain will miss the variation of Jesus Navas

The Manchester City winger misses the tournament through injury and it robs Del Bosque of an impact player who offers something that none of his other squad players do.

Navas was part of the 2010 and 2012 tournament winning squads. He rarely starts, but when Spain need to change the game he offers pace and direct wing play.

With the exception of Pedro - who is also very quick but not as effective as a winger - Spain have a squad full of small, technically-brilliant midfielders. They can pass the ball all day, but sometimes you just need to pelt down the wing and put a cross in. That’s what Navas does.

In the 2010 World Cup final, he came on for the last half an hour, plus extra time. His pace was integral in stretching the Dutch defence and helping to create Andres Iniesta’s winning goal.

In the modern game, substitutes can be as important as the starting XI - Navas would have been brutally effective against tired defences in Brazil.

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