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FC Barcelona: Andrés Iniesta: Spain’s Key Man?

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Iniesta celebrating the winning goal.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Iniesta celebrating the winning goal. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Scorer of the winning goal in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Andrés Iniesta has already proved he is a key part to the recent success of Spain. So with Euro 2012 quickly approaching, is the Barcelona man going to shine again this summer in Poland and Ukraine?

Iniesta, along with his club-mate Xavi, are guaranteed starters if fully fit. Vicente del Bosque is a strong supporter of the style that the two players bring and is more than happy to keep faith in the men who brought him the last World Cup.

Iniesta goal in World Cup final. Best quality (via MrRezigrene)

With the injury blow of David Villa it is likely that Iniesta will play higher up the field in a winged position he occasionally fills while playing for Barça. This will accommodate either Juan Mata or David Silva on the opposite wing with a central striker, most likely Fernando Torres or Fernando Llorente.

Conversely del Bosque may play Iniesta as part of the midfield three, where I think he shines more. This allows the 28 year old the space to be really effective. Take his World Cup winning goal in 2010, Iniesta broke from midfield and darted into the Dutch penalty area. He was met by his future club mate Cesc Fàbregas and produced an exquisite finish. If he was on the wing it is unlikely that Iniesta would have found that much space.

This heat map of Iniesta during the final clearly shows that Iniesta spent the majority of time in the centre of the opposition’s half. Until eventually he broke clear and scored.

If Spain use either Busquets or Xabi Alonso as their CDM, it frees Iniesta and Xavi from a share of defensive duties, making Spain more offensive. This could be vital because no selected striker is in good form at the moment and putting the ball into the net could prove a difficulty at the Euros. Therefore Iniesta may be expected to produce a steady flow of goals this summer.

During the 2010 World Cup Iniesta scored two goals from a total of eleven shots, five of which were on target. The statistics show Iniesta likes to strike the ball from distance but is actually more efficient inside the penalty area. The midfielder took seven shots from outside of the area; two hit the target giving him a 35% success rate. While inside the area he took four shots, three hit the target and of those three two were converted. Making him the second top scorer for Spain behind David Villa.

He does have the pivotal touch though as both of his goals have been match winners. Scoring Spain’s second in their 2-1 win over Chile in the group stages and of course the only goal of the final against Holland.

Like Xavi, Iniesta often completes high pass success rates. In total Iniesta made 382 passes during the World Cup and 278 of them reached their target. Giving him a very respectable 73% success rate, combined with Xavi’s 81% rate Spain dominated teams because of their passes. A tiki-taka style proved effective and the stats show that the two playmakers passed to each other most frequently. Xavi passed to Iniesta 71 times and Andrés repaid the favour 62 times. The chemistry between Xavi and Iniesta cannot be underestimated.

Iniesta’s presence also cannot be underestimated. In every game that Iniesta played the full 90 minutes, Spain won. The only time Spain lost throughout the whole tournament came when Iniesta left the field after 77 minutes of play, proving his impact on the game. He also racked up a total of 557 minutes, something Spanish fans will be hoping to see repeated for the upcoming tournament.

For me Iniesta is the hub of the team. Critics have been quick to question his effectiveness after a long hard season at Barcelona but I still believe Iniesta combined with Xavi has the talent and raw determination to bring the trophy home for Spain and become the first national side to win three major tournaments in a row.