Spain 1-1 Russia | Spain suffer shock exit in penalty shootout | Tactical takeaways

Spain 1-1 Russia | FI

Spain were knocked out of the FIFA World Cup by hosts Russia as the home team prevailed in the penalty shootout. The score was 1-1 after regulation time and it did not change over extra time as well, as Russia were defending resolutely against the European heavyweights. They were unimpressive on the night as Russia made life difficult for them, but Spain were poor in general. I have provided snippets below explaining the problems in Spain’s buildup and how it played into Russia’s hands.


Spain 1-1 Russia | FI

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Spain: (4-2-3-1) Manager: Fernando Hierro

De Gea; Nacho, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, Koke; Asensio, Silva, Isco; Costa

Russia: (3-4-3) Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov

Akinfeev; Kutepov, Ignashevich, Kudryashov; Fernandes,Kuzyaev, Zobnin, Zhirkov; Samedov, Golovin, Dzyuba


Tactical Breakdown:

  • Spain dominated possession but failed to make it count: Isco dropped out of the block to receive possession. There was no clever movement in between the lines to receive passes. This led to possession being recycled back to Ramos due to lack of options. All these factors added up to an overall slow tempo with no quick switches in play, meaning that Russia could easily defend their spaces and see out any Spain attack
  • Silva, Isco and Alba contributed to overloads on the left side, with Isco providing the ball down the flanks for Diego Costa to run into. This however had repercussions for Spain in the form of not having anyone attack the ball in the box, with Asensio positioned on the far right

These factors, combined with the astute defending from Russia, in their 5-4-1 block, meant that they were able to shut Spain down and make life hard for them. Spain lacked invent in their build up and were very poor in general from open play due to a lack of width and movement in their attacks.


It was one of the major upsets of the tournament so far after Germany’s exit from the group stages earlier. This also meant that Argentina, Portugal and now Spain all make their exits from the World Cup with a number of heavyweights bowing out. Russia’s journey continues and -they shall await the winner of the Croatia-Denmark game for their Quarterfinal match.