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2023 Women's World Cup

Spain’s defense is their secret weapon, and their Achilles heel

La Roja is shutting opponents down in dominant fashion, but thanks to random rotations and some resulting mistakes, the backline appears vulnerable.

Photo Copyright Daniela Porcelli for SPP

Colombia was for the people. Japan was for the tacticians. England was for the bookmakers. But after the World Cup quarterfinals concluded, the best team left standing may have been Spain. 

Nobody doubted Spain’s attacking bona fides, and they have remained the dominant side going forward. They pass you to death, dribble the ball into the box with aplomb, hardly ever lose possession, and generate more non-penalty xG than the 31 other teams in the tournament. It’s a murderer’s row of attacking talent, whose club pedigrees have borne out with La Roja over and over again. Alexia Putellas has been a bench presence rather than a starter, such is the level of this group.

Pretty passing patterns don’t win you a one-month, seven-game tournament, however, and Spain’s secret weapon has been its defensive tactics. The two front lines are aggressive, efficient, and lethal without the ball. People forget that tiki-taka isn’t simply a mountain of passing triangles. It’s also a pressing system that ensures that you get the ball back as quickly as you lose it.

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