Yesterday was Friday the 13th. For those suspicious it was perhaps the worst day to start a World Cup campaign, for others Iker Casillas needs to be asked if he saw a Black Cat cross his path yesterday. The 1 - 5 defeat by Spain at the hands of Holland was humiliating & complicates their Group B qualification. Spain has to now defeat (yes or yes) a very difficult Chile, & then defeat Australia with plenty of goals.

In theory this can be achieved, but the unknown is if Spain & some of its players can lift out of the hole they dug last night for the occasion. The unexpected result was so savage that the open wounds inflicted may not scare in time. The psychological "torture" so intense that Spain may not be able to recover its lost confidence. The situation is critical & will need the "DNA" of Champions to recover. I am optimistic but the feat is a challenge in itself. 

World Cup 2014 Brazil

While Spain spend these days licking their wounds, locally the critics have come out from under the carpet to voice their opinions. There are very severe words flying around Spain, with little respect for a squad that has been spectacular the last 8 years. However, the more moderate observer does separate himself from the the emotional kick in the teeth methods, the "Black Cat Theory" & does give some interesting points that need comment & analysis. Lets look at some elements:
  • The Spanish Football Authorities: can anyone explain how a team can prepare its World Cup campaign in a city (Curitiba) where the temperature is around 15-18 degrees to later fly a day before to another city (Bahia) were it is nearly 30 degrees & a humidity of 85% to play its opening match? As shown Spain could not even run in the 2º half as they were physically suffocated. The Dutch by the way, trained at the beach in Rio.
  • Selector & Coach Vicente de Bosque: accused of not taking the best possible Spain 23 over to Brazil. The existence of a "paternal instinct" that has prized out of form players like Villa, Torres, Xavi, Mata & Casillas etc. has left home watching the TV players who deserved their "Brazil ticket" like Fernando Llorente, Gabi, Carvajal, perhaps Raul Garcia, perhaps Ander Herrara...etc. I personally understand Del Bosque better proven experience over youth, but last night showed that many starting players are badly out of form & physically "wasted" after a long Club season.
    Added, there is some criticism of why Spain has taken Diego Costa. The Spanish Football Team has had to change its style in order to incorporate Costa, with more long balls. However, the player himself has not delivered the expected goods & on top is a constant "red card" danger.

  • Iker Casillas: if two World Class Coaches like Mourinho & Carlo Ancelotti decide to sit Casillas at Club level, there must be a reason. The UEFA Champions Final against Atletico de Madrid warned us that Iker was not well. The Spanish Captain has two grand technical weakness, his aerial play & his foot work, plus now a third which he has been carrying for almost a year, lack of confidence. Technically Iker Casillas should not be the starting goalkeeper, the man is simply elsewhere.
  • Xavi Hernandez: physically not up to the standards needed at World Cup level. The player is feeling his 34 years of age. In fact Xavi has not been all that great with FC Barcelona all season, & perhaps could have stayed home & given his place to another. Atletico de Madrid player Koke would have been a more appropriate starter with more youth & in complete form.
  • Sergi Busquets: the player is on the field with an injury. In the second half Sergi was not able to reach & halt the Dutch creators. Coach Del Bosque takes off Xabi Alonso when it should have been Busquets. Some say that Busquets is the "favourite" of Del Bosque.

  • Pique: the last weeks of Liga the player was out with an injured hip. The Barça player lacks playing time & yesterday suffered to reach the 90 min under the steamy conditions. Bayern Munich player Javi Martinez was the obvious choice but ...

  • Sergio Ramos: all the recent praises & awards have not done any good. The player is undoubtedly a talent but Ramos suffers from over-confidence & lapses in concentration. His Club Coaches have managed this aspect by bring the player "down to earth", perhaps a "wake up call" from Del Bosque would be in order.

  • Lack of goal: to win in Football you need to score goals, it is that simple. Spain has a problem up front, there is no "goal area Killer". The rivals have Spain more than studied & worked out, Diego Costa is an alternative but the player has yet to find his place in the team. 
In conclusion, the Spanish Football National Team has soon real problems that need drastic solutions. The 1 - 5 defeat has only brought them to light & it all begins with bad planning & bad choice of players not in form for the World Cup. The solutions will need some very brave decisions that I wonder if Coach Del Bosque is really up to the occasion. Local observers are advising that Casillas, Pique & Xavi Hernandez be dropped for starters. On the physical front I am not sure the players can recover as their legs are carrying more than 70 games of Liga & European Football. Mentally, it will be a challenge to comeback, here the veterans will have to guide the younger members & pull from pride & history. 

All the answers will be made clear against Chile, here we will be able to gauge if Spain has improved & perhaps predict their near future. The positive side is that Chile is not as sharp as we thought as they struggled against Australia in their opener, but they managed to win & will not have the enormous choking pressure on their shoulders as will the Spaniards. A loss against Chile will be the end of a fabulous period of Spanish Football that will herald the beginning of a "new era".

Lets be optimistic & give the current World Champions a vote of confidence. But the reality is that it is a very, very complicated & delicate situation. I would avoid "Black Cats" just in case.  

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