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Stewart Coggin

Poor Surface? Try Fielding a Striker

By June 11, 2012

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"A pitch that is so dry does not do football or the spectators many favors," bemoaned Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque after the 1-1 draw with Italy.

"If the pitch had been a bit quicker it would have been better for both teams and a better match."

Firstly Del Bosque's comments about the quality of the encounter are a little surprising because to most observers, Sunday's match was the best of the tournament so far; two heavyweights of the world game producing several chances and plenty of soccer to admire.

"We deserved much more. It's shameful that we still have to play on pitches like that," observed goalscorer Cesc Fabregas.

Even the mild-mannered Andres Iniesta had a pop: "Seeing the pitch in those conditions is a disaster. It was incredibly dry and that makes circulation of the ball difficult."

A properly watered pitch would indeed have been conducive to Spain's slick passing style. But should the European and world champions not be able to overcome such factors? The surface at the Arena Gdansk did slow up Spain's approach play, meaning they were unable to fashion many genuine chances until Fernando Torres' introduction in the second-half. Until that point Fabregas has been playing as a 'false nine', with Del Bosque opting not to field a striker in what was one of the most interesting tactical decisions by a coach at these championships.

Instead of bleat about the pitch, perhaps the former Real Madrid coach should look into actually deploying a center forward when La Furia Roja face the Republic of Ireland on Thursday. Spain were too predictable at times against the Azzurri and it was not all down to the surface. There was enough here to suggest that pre-tournament doubts about their ability to retain the trophy were well founded.

Incidentally, Spanish-based journalist Graham Hunter wrote in his blog for uefa.com on Friday just how important the quality of the playing surface is for Xavi and Co. It makes interesting reading following Sunday's clash.

When the rules were being drawn up all those years ago, it was agreed that grass was the optimum playing surface. No one said anything about wet grass.

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Jasper Juinen/ Getty Images

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