Spain unimpressed by Del Bosque’s striker-less selection

You know you have a tough gig and are playing to a pretty demanding crowd when you’ve already lead your team to a World Cup win, yet still have hard-to-please types suggesting you don’t know what you’re doing.

That was one response to Spain’s draw with Italy in their Euro 2012 opener Sunday evening, a result that was hardly surprising considering the last time Spain beat Italy in a grown-up, official game was 92 years ago, when Luis Aragonés had his first spell in charge of la Seleccíon.

It’s AS who are the grumpiest on Monday morning when reflecting on Spain’s striker-less formation. Rather than being a great tactical plan from Vicente Del Bosque, which ended with a perfectly acceptable result, the feeling from editor Alfredo Relaño is that it was an act of desperation from a coach who knew that his three striking options - Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Torres - were either too unfit, too inexperienced or too useless to start Sunday’s clash. “What was worrying about the game, more than the list that Del Bosque put out was the sensation that it wasn’t a strong decision but a last minute response to the curse of Villa’s absence.”

The paper lamented Torres' missed chances on the front cover, with a freeze-frame of the ball sailing up and over the Italian cross bar following the most languid of lobs from the former Atlético Madrid man, an effort that brought a gasp of exasperation from the crowd, a sound familiar to Stamford Bridge regulars - the Chelsea Sigh. “That was the one,” laments the front cover. The introduction of Torres in the second half almost saw the desperate pleas of the Spanish commentators for the first 73 minutes of the game turning from ‘shooooot!’ to ‘hell’s bells, don’t shoot’.

His other blooper - when he ambled straight into Buffon when clean through on goal - appears on the front cover of Marca, whose headline reads “too forgiving”.

On the inside pages, though, a remarkably chipper Fabio Capello is as pleased as punch by what he felt was the best match of the tournament so far. “We saw a great Spain and also a great Italy,” said the former Real Madrid man, who loves a good stalemate and prefers to focus on the highlights of the encounter rather “Iniesta had an extraordinary performance, bravisima. He’s a footballer who can change the direction of a game when you least expect it.”  Luis Aragonés on the other hand, notes that he would have played a striker in the match.

The usual trick for the Catalan daily, Sport, is to take any kind of international game and make a case for Barcelona being the greatest side on the planet. The paper notes that five Barça players started the match against Italy and that two in particular played a key role. “There was the extra merit that Andrés (Iniesta) was the best and Cesc scored the goal in the draw,” beamed Josep Maria Casanovas, who was also tickled pink about Leo Messi’s hat-trick against Brasil.

Mundo Deportivo’s focus was also on the Barça brigade in the Spanish camp, with Santi Nolla also praising the performance of Iniesta. “He’s the soul of la Roja and he gave another display of great football, ” opined the columnist, who has sympathy with the start for Spain. “The most important thing in a debut is not to lose.”

In that sense, it was mission accomplished for Del Bosque. Although the first game was hardly a sparkling one for Spain, it was a point against a team against whom the country has struggled for nearly a century. There’s much room for improvement, but optimism that this will begin against Ireland on Thursday.