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Del Bosque right not to shoehorn Silva

12 Oct 2011 15:09:00

Del Bosque right not to shoehorn Silva

TEAMtalk guest blogger Adam Bate looks at the problems international teams face in trying to fit their best players into the same side. It's easy to feel sympathy for David Silva when he speaks of feeling like a "supporting actor" with the Spanish national team. Silva has certainly been the star man in Manchester City's ensemble cast so far this season. But surely with the talent at Vincente del Bosque's disposal, the Spain coach can be forgiven for not putting Silva centre-stage. It is one of the curiosities of international football - teams are constructed that see world-class performers left out of the side while lesser lights in other positions are automatic picks. For example, while Silva and others like Cesc Fabregas and Pepe Reina are frequently forced to settle for a place on the bench, former Villarreal left-back Joan Capdevila started every game of Spain's World Cup win. It's a conundrum that in England has been seen for much of the past decade through the prism of the Lampard-Gerrard debate. For years pundits appeared to be genuinely baffled as to why Lampard and Gerrard were unable to reproduce their club form for the national team. The fact that one of both of them were usually being asked to play in a different position within a different formation was routinely overlooked. Far from being a uniquely perplexing challenge, England's tactical dilemma was one that teams have faced through the ages. The Italian national team took an alternative approach when Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera were in their prime. At the 1970 World Cup, the Azzurri operated a tag-team strategy known as "the relay" - with Mazzola playing one half and Rivera the other. Even if fitting the two men into the same side was not the answer, this hedging of bets felt no more satisfying. One man who looks to have found the solution is Oscar Tabarez, the current Uruguay coach. Blessed with three top-class forwards in Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani, there exists understandable pressure to accommodate all three men in his first eleven. Tabarez managed to do so through most of Uruguay's journey to the 2010 World Cup semi-finals in South Africa, but was forced to make a big call at this year's Copa America. After the team had stuttered through two drawn group games, Tabarez axed Cavani as he switched to a more balanced 4-4-1-1 formation. The match was won and three more victories soon followed, with Cavani only returning as a substitute when 2-0 up against Paraguay in the final. Dropping a player of Cavani's quality was a bold decision for the coach of a nation of just 3.5 million people but the Copa America win fully justified the move. Even smaller countries than Uruguay have enjoyed this embarrassment of striking riches. In the period from 1987 to 1991, Wales' side boasted three forwards in Mark Hughes, Ian Rush and Dean Saunders who all received nominations for the Ballon d'Or. Such was the depth of forward talent that Rush scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over Germany in 1991 but was not needed in the eleven for another one goal win against Brazil just a few months later in which Saunders grabbed the only goal. The problem for Wales was that while they possessed three quality strikers, the rest of the side was somewhat less star-studded. Players such as Mark Aizlewood and Paul Bodin spent much of their career playing in the lower leagues of English football and it was Bodin who missed a crucial spot-kick against Romania that may have denied Wales a place at the 1994 World Cup. So while David Silva can bemoan his status within the camp of the world's finest national team, he can at least content himself with the World Cup winners' medal in his drawer. And perhaps thank his lucky stars he's a David and not a Dafydd. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ghostgoal and check out his blog at GhostGoal.


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