What Spain’s national team accomplished the last six years was the stuff of legends, it may never be topped again. Back to back European champions, and a world cup crown in the middle of that. Sporting some of the greatest footballers of our generation, it looked like Spain’s dominance would carry over to the 2014 World Cup. Unfortunately, Spain could not fulfill a back to back World Cup champion title.
Spain started the tournament as a favorite, and as slight favorite to beat the Dutch in the opening round. Things got off to a great start for the Spaniards with a converted penalty by Xabi Alonso. The Dutch for sure seemed backed up against the wall. Spain would press with a high defensive line. Sergio Ramos, and Gerard Pique would stand at the midline and look to keep possession while leaving yards of space behind them. The inevitable happened, with Robin Van Persie opening up the scoring with a brilliant header over a planted Iker Casillas. Van Persie made a run to get behind the back four and exposed the wide open space of grass the back four left. Equalizer. Tied match, and the momentum swung the Dutch’s way. After the opening goal, the Dutch scored another four goals, in the process Van Persie and Arjen Robben embarrassed Pique and Ramos, and humiliated the defending champs in the opening match of the group.
After the match, pundits and critics started to debate if Spain still has the right mixture of youth and experience to win the tournament. The majority of people agreed that Spain would regroup, and take all three points from Chile the following match in their second showing. This was a hiccup for the defending champs. Surely, the defending champions would show more composure, and a greater sense of urgency to win. Unfortunately, the Chile match was no different from the first match against the Dutch. The final score line wasn’t as lopsided as the first match, but the Spanish looked defeated after the second goal Chile scored. The Spanish midfield (who usually dominate the opposition) looked beat and tired. Diego Costa seemed lost up top as the lone striker. The defense seemed to lack the leadership Carles Puyol provided in South Africa. It was a mess. Spain has hit rock bottom, something they haven’t felt in a while. The winner’s mentality seemed to fade away, and the heads dropped down to the ground after the final whistle blew. Surely many questions must be answered.
The future looks like a tossup for this Spanish side. Many star players such as David Vila and Xavi Hernandez are close to retirement, while Xabi Alonso has retired from international football. Many veterans are leaving, and it seems that Spain needs an overhaul. It also does not help that the old Rubik’s cube system of Tiki-Taka seems to be solved by the majority of opposing teams. What will Vicente Del Bosque do in the future? Will he follow the Roy Hogdson blue print, and select a younger squad next time around? By doing that, he would have to call up youngsters such as Isco, Jese Rodriguez, Morata, etc…. and by doing that, will he turn the Spanish side into a counter attacking squad instead a possession based team? So many questions will be asked when the World Cup is over, and when Spain has to defend their European crown in 2016.