Spain: Casillas; Ramos (Arbeloa 77), Puyol, Pique, Capdevila; Busquets, Alonso, Xavi (Fabregas 66); Navas, Villa, Torres (Mata 70)
Honduras: Valladares; Mendoza, Chavez, Figueroa, Izaguirre; W Palacios, Guevarra; Turcios (Nunez 63), Martinez, Espinoza (Welcome 46); Suazo (J Palacios 84)
Spain tonight looked back to their best tonight as they produced a confident display in Johannesburg to defeat and completely outclass Reinaldo Rueda’s Honduras 2-0 with a well-earned brace from David Villa.
Changes for both sides
Vicente Del Bosque made two changes in personnel from the Switzerland game, Fernando Torres replacing the injured Andres Iniesta and Jesus Navas, who impressed in Durban last week, being rewarded with a start at the expense of David Silva.
Despite the alterations the Spanish kept their usual 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shape, Villa playing on the left flank and Torres deployed as the centre-forward.
Honduras stuck with the 4-1-4-1 system which they used with mixed success against Chile, making three changes to the team that had been defeated in Nelspruit last Wednesday.
Walter Martinez was drafted in to start on the left side, whilst Danilo Turcios and David Suazo replaced Edgard Alvarez and Carlos Pavon in the midfield and attack respectively.
Spanish dominance on both flanks
Spain, as usual, set the tone for the game early on with quick, incisive passing and looked to have learned lessons from their defeat to Switzerland with a greater willingness to get the ball wide and proved crosses for Torres in the middle.
Sergio Ramos was a particularly central figure to the Spanish plan, getting forward to overlap Navas, providing extra width and overwhelming Emilio Izaguirre at left-back.
If the crosses came from the right, the majority of Spain’s direct running was provided from the left where Villa had the beating of Sergio Mendoza all evening. The Barcelona striker’s willingness to run at the Honduran back four was key to the first two goals as he was continually provided with the ball by the excellent passing of Xabi Alonso and Xavi before cutting inside to instigate chaos amongst the opposition defence.
Honduras open up
The second-half saw Honduras make an admirable attempt to open up and attack, Georgie Welcome replacing the abject Roger Espinoza, a change that saw a shift from 4-1-4-1 to a loose 4-3-3 and gave the team extra incisiveness on the right side but left the Central Americans very much open to the Spanish counter-attacks as their defence moved out from its deep position of the first-half.
Del Bosque introduced Cesc Fabregas with 25 minutes to play and the Arsenal man had an instant impact, pushing further up the pitch than Xavi had, pulling the strings in attack and exploiting the gaps the Hondurans left at the back. Juan Mata also looked sharp when he replaced Torres, adopting a position wide on the left as Villa moved to the centre, affording Mendoza absolutely no let-up in what was an difficult night for the Honduran right-back.
Spain continued to assert their dominance as the game headed towards its conclusion, creating a wealth of opportunities and yet failing to extend their lead through a mixture of poor finishing and some excellent last-ditch defending. It may not have been an emphatic scoreline, but this was a classic Spanish performance and a result that will have done wonders for the squad’s confidence in the wake of their defeat to the Swiss.
Group H in the balance
Tonight’s result means that Spain will have to get something out of their final group tie with Chile to guarantee progression to the second round with, theoretically, all four teams still in with a chance of going through. Of course, Spain will be desperate to produce a strong performance against Marcelo Bielsa’s team in the hope of avoiding Brazil in the knock-out stages, with Portugal the likely opponents of the country that finishes at the summit of Group H.