Sid Lowe, who writes a weekly article for The Guardian on Spanish football, and Graham Hunter, who has written books on Spain’s Euro and World Cup success, as well as one on Barcelona which won the Football Book of the Year at The British Sports Book Awards in 2013, have spoken exclusively to RoM for the World Cup preview about Juan Mata and Spain.
Graham Hunter on Mata: Mata is now a very interesting case. He’s a player who’s had next to no game time in the last two tournaments but I think there’s a reason. In 2010 he was a relatively new international and the competition for the role he played was very fierce. He trained very well but didn’t get the necessary breaks which lead to more game time. In 2012 he’d been terrific for Chelsea but was physically very drained by the time he reached Poland.
This time, Spain have a huge need for goals and goal assists. Mata was finding good form as season progressed. If he gets the breaks and plays sufficient time he could be Spain’s ‘jack in the box’ player. Compared to 2010, Spain lack a guaranteed, proven tournament striker. Torres and Villa have been that man and could be again, but each’s goal record has declined rapidly.
Sid Lowe on Mata: He may not play. The quality of the side is just so good. Although it does depend on physical state of other players (Silva? Xavi? Costa? Lots of spaces potentially opening up) and he will play well, I’m sure, if he gets a chance.
To read their opinion in full, appraising David de Gea, Spain’s chances and predicted line-ups, check out the RoM World Cup preview. All proceeds to charity.