The humbling manner of the defeats that eliminated pain from this year’s World Cup have sent shockwaves around the football world. Los Rojas were outplayed and outclassed in their 5-1 and 2-0 defeats to the Netherlands and Chile.
What really seemed to put a full stop to Spain’s era of utter dominance was the manner in which Chile and their fans celebrated at the final whistle. Their cheers were lacklustre and seemed like they already had one eye on the next opponent. They knew they had beat a team that was now well beneath their team’s talent. This was a biggest insult to Spain than any of the seven goals that flew past them.
How did it come to this? How did the Champions fall so hard? Here are the five main reasons:
1. The End Of Tiki-Taka
The system of play that Barcelona and Spain had perfected in recent years seems to have passed. The Netherlands and Chile, in a similar fashion to Real Madrid this season, hit Spain with counter attacks at pace. Making your possession count rather than simply maintaining it seems to be the new mentality teams are adopting. Hence the high amount of goals in this tournament. Spain have failed to change with the times.
2. Lack Of Hunger
Alex Ferguson once stated “I always believe a four-year cycle is probably the most you can achieve. There are very, very few teams who can create more than a four-year cycle.” Of course Spain wanted to win. But after winning three tournaments in a row naturally Spain did not have the same grit as, for example, the Netherlands who were desperate for revenge against the team that cost them the World Cup four years ago.
3. Iker Casillas
Iker is a hero for club and country. 33 is not old for a goalkeeper. Look at Van Der Sar who was still one of the best in the world at 40. But there are two types of goalkeepers, the ones that have great decision-making skills that allow them to make up for their declining reflexes and those who do not. Iker is the latter and he cost Spain a number of goals in the two games.
The Spain side looked jaded in this World Cup. When one considers the hard fought three-horse La Liga race that went down to the very last minute, it most definitely had an effect on the international squad. In addition Real and Atletico Madrid both made the Champions Final.
This abundance of nail biting games contrasts hugely with the German and Italian leagues which had been settled weeks before. Too many Spanish players fought a war this season and weren’t ready for another.
5. Xaxi’s Decline
The team could not cope with Xavi’s decline. His game has always been one of inches. A fraction of a metre here, fraction of a second there was how he won games from midfield. At 34, he was losing those fractions and Barcelona knew it, hence they left him out of their title deciding game this season. Del Bosque still felt he had something to offer and it cost them a lot against the Dutch. Del Bosque left him out against Chile, but the damage was done.
The Spanish decline has shocked many critics, but it is clear that it was coming. Four years at the top table of international football would take its toll on any team.
Denis Foynes, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Alfonso Jimenez from Manchester, United Kingdom (Iker Casillas) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.