The 1 - 5 hammering by Holland in the first of the Group B games was thought of as being some kind of anomaly or perhaps a Football "accident". But the 0 - 2 defeat yesterday at the hands of Chile washed clean those thoughts & gave evidence that Spain arrived at this competition not at a level that is required from a National Team to defend title.
As expected the disappoint & the frustration mixed with the emotion of the Spanish population & Spanish Sports media has given birth to a barrage of criticisms, some totally out of hand, that now looks for logical explanations.
Before giving some humble points of view, it is worth remembering that theses players have captivated World Football in ways Football lovers dreamt about, managing to gather European Nations Title (2008), FIFA World Cup Champion (2010) & European Nations Title (2012) again, apart from staying Nº1 on the FIFA Ranking from 2008. Respect & admiration is called for independently of recent circumstances or events. Historically its the greatest Spanish Team in its History & in World Football it will be remembered as one of the finest ever.
Said all this, some deep analysis is needed, if for no other reasons than to learn, rectify & work to return to the Football levels that everyone knows can be achieved once again. Here every piece & element of the Spanish Team puzzle has to accept their part of the failure & responsibility; the Spanish Football Authorities, the Spanish Selector & Coach & the players. I have my opinions, & will feed off the many other opinions being expressed by qualified local Sports & Football experts:
- The Spanish Football Team preparation was lacking. The priority on local & European competition at Club level gave only 2-3 weeks to concentrate on this tournament,
- The heavy burden of Liga & European competition exhausted the players & most came into the World Cup physically hammered & carrying injury. Both games between Holland & Chile saw an exhausted Spanish Team in the second halves that limited any attempts of recovery under match conditions,
- Bad management by Spanish Football Authorities perhaps with over emphasis on commercial obligations locally, & bad adaptation to the Brazilian weather conditions. The "Spain HQ" was in a region with temperatures of 15 degrees while games were played in locations with 25-30 degrees & humidity of 85% & above. Flying over from HQ the day before with players already limited psychically perhaps was not the best idea,
- Selector & Coach Del Bosque did not take the best possible Spanish players over to Brazil. Better in form players like Fernando Llorente, Carvajal, Isco, Gabi, Raul Garcia...etc & etc. were dismissed or not even contemplated. Del Bosque decided to "please" the old guard & reward players that were out of form &/or carrying injuries. Said differently, Del Bosque succumb to "interests" & preferred to be "politically correct",
- The "Diego Costa" experiment failed. The player did not have time to adapt to the Spanish Team "way" nor the squad to the way Costa plays. The Spanish Team had to "change" its usual methods to fit in Costa. It is worth reminding that Costa is a player that suits the counter-attack with long passing, not the "tiki-taka" close touch Football. Surprising that the technical team did not factor all this in,
- The players were not motivated. Coach Del Bosque commented weeks before the World Cup that he did not see "the fire in the eyes" of his players, while Xabi Alonso
post-Chile game said that they lacked the inner will,
- Iker Casillas was terrible. Understandable if your the second choice goalkeeper in your Club & only play 25-30% of the Clubs seasons game. The player came in without form & worst, without confidence. Pique went into the World Cup recently recovered from a serious injury, as with Jordi Alba & Busquets. Xavi Hernandez was sadly out of form & physically out,
- Spain failed to solve their recent Football problem: the lack of goal, the inability to score goals &/or convert their opportunities. Coach Del Bosque took to Brazil forwards who have spent more time on the bench with their Clubs than playing, like Villa & Torres, & Diego Costa was always a risk,
- Bad tactical & line-up decisions. Players like Javi Martinez, Koke & Cesc Fabregas ( to mention just three) should have been used from day one. Plus locally some observers add that Juanfran was perhaps better than Azpilicueta & should have started,
- Lastly, Holland & Chile were simply better. Deserved winners who did their homework & executed their strategy to perfection. They were better in all the aspects: more motivation, more hunger & physically superior. Six years of World Football domination by Spain gave plenty of time & examples to other to "study in depth" the Spanish ways which allowed rivals to figure & adapt effective antidotes. The Spanish sin was not innovating, not discovering & adapting more "surprise factors" in their game. Simply said, Spain become predicable.
The weeks & months ahead will be full of criticisms, varied opinions & news concerning the Spanish National Team. But there is enough new talent on hand to return to were Spain has fought so hard over decades to be in World Football, the future is more optimistic than negative.