All good things come to an end, and after two consecutive European Championships wins – with a World Cup sandwiched in the middle, Spain join the likes of France – 2002 and Italy – 2010 as one of the defending champions to go out in the group stage. Perhaps this was their Waterloo, coming not so soon after Barcelona experienced theirs in their defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League in April last year.
Many football pundits are heralding this as the end of tiki-taka, the type of play which began with Barcelona in 2008 and then continued on to the national team, largely due to the number of Barcelona players in the first team at the time. This style of play was hugely successful for both Barcelona and Spain, and therefore it seems logical that following Barcelona’s trophy less season, Spain too leave Brazil without the World Cup, robbing them of the chance of becoming the first side to ever defend the World Cup.
The end of an era, surely as many of their core players such as Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, David Villa, Fernando Torres and lastly, Xavi have played their last World Cup with players like David Villa and Xavi already considering semi-retirement in countries like Qatar and the USA. These players have 706 caps between them and it will not be an easy task replacing such players. Maybe there was also a lack of desire and hunger, as many of their players had already won every cup that they could win in their careers. Both Iker Casillas and Xabi Alonso hinted at it in the post match press conference.
Vincente del Bosque must however, shoulder most of the blame for their exit. Most of the squad was chosen on reputation rather than merit. Spain’s squad selection had just two recognised centre backs in the form of the error-prone duo of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. Juan Mata and Xavi were chosen despite indifferent seasons at Manchester United and Barcelona respectively. Del Bosque also continuously showed his faith in fading star, Iker Casillas, who has been unable to nail down a starting spot in Real Madrid under two managers. There were also some question marks raised on the selection of Sergio Busquets who had a torrid time in both of his matches in the World Cup so far.
Spain’s disappointment came in the Maracana, scene of the infamous 1950 World Cup final. However, if Spain can pick themselves up like Brazil did, there can be further successes, but for now, all attentions lie towards the qualifying stages of the Euro’s, due to be held in France in 2016. Questions will be asked and heads will be rolled but Spain have to move on from this disappointment. Spanish national daily, Marca’s front page had the words “THE END” in response to the defeat against a very committed and aggressive Chile team. In response to a reporter asking him whether it was the end of an era, Xabi Alonso summed it up perfectly, “Things are going to change. Eras end with defeats and this was a painful defeat. Now we’re going home.”
It may be the end of a golden era for Spain and it’s players, but they have to learn from this and move on, to ensure they don’t regress but progress. The hard work for Spain, begins now.