POTCHEFSTROOM - Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is not known for making sweeping strategic changes but he may have to show more boldness if he is to lead the European champions beyond the World Cup group stage.
The 4-5-1 starting formation he fielded against the unfancied Swiss on Wednesday, with David Villa operating as a lone striker and Fernando Torres on the bench, was more than capable of dominating possession for long periods.
However, Villa spent most of the first half vainly chasing the ball and it was only when Switzerland took a shock lead, with more than half of the match already over, that Del Bosque's hand was forced, the 59-year-old throwing on Torres as well as pacy wingers Jesus Navas and Pedro.
Playing at times with a lone striker might have worked for Spain during their fine qualification campaign, when they won all 10 matches, but the Swiss proved that organisation, hard work and luck are simple but effective weapons.
Even with four forwards on the pitch, Spain struggled to find penetration, but, with hindsight, Del Bosque may be asking himself whether a bolder strategy from the start, with both Torres and Villa on the pitch, would have been more effective.
"If you know that your opponent is going to come out and defend and look to counter attack you normally have to go out there in the first quarter of an hour with the emphasis on pushing forward on their goalkeeper to turn the balance of the match in your favour," Del Bosque's predecessor, Luis Aragones, was quoted as saying in the Spanish media on Thursday.
"Spain were the better team but they lacked the conviction to go after the game from the first second," he added.
Against Honduras on Monday in Spain's second Group H match, Del Bosque may opt to follow Aragones' advice and play both Villa and Torres from the start.
Instead of the congested five-man midfield he deployed on Wednesday, he could then field Xavi in front of Xabi Alonso in the centre, with Andres Iniesta on the left and David Silva on the right.
Silva did not have one of his best games against Switzerland and Del Bosque also has the option of using Cesc Fabregas on the right, whose creativity and eye for goal have served Spain well in the past.
At his post-match news conference on Wednesday, Del Bosque's comments did not suggest we are about to see a revolution in the Spain ranks.
"You win in football by playing in an orthodox way," he said. "I believe in maintaining good order even in the most difficult moments."comments