THE curtain didn’t so much come down on Spain’s reign as World Cup holders, it crashed spectacularly through the stage.
Now, people are forecasting the end of the Tiki Taka era, and looking for the next country to step up for world dominance. Undoubtedly, the winners of this summer’s tournament in Brazil would be the most likely candidates.
But I don’t think it need be the end for Spain as a major force. Reports of their demise are premature.
Take nothing away from the Netherlands or Chile, who got their tactical approach spot on in their respective victories – the Dutch using a back three to perfection and the South Americans pressing so hard in midfield that you kept expecting them to keel over.
In each case, however, Spain persisted with a style that simply doesn’t suit them. Had they simply gone back to basics, as they did late in the game against Chile, they would still be in this competition.
Spain have never had a “superstar” and have always relied on the tight club bonds forged with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol and Co. Despite some wonderful talents, they have always been more than the sum of their parts.
Every machine needs a few spares every once in a while, though, and that is where Vicente del Bosque has gone terribly wrong.
Knowing that the heat and humidity could cause problems for some of his more experienced thirty-somethings, the Spanish coach tried to take the game further forward by playing Diego Costa as a proper number nine. Unfortunately for the Brazil-born striker, none of his team-mates seemed to be on the same page.
Costa flailed around feeding off scraps as the players who got most of their success using a “false” number nine and relying on runners from midfield, struggled to adapt.
Individual errors cost them dear. Iker Casillas will now forever be remembered for his two howlers in Brazil rather than being one of the best European goalkeepers of his generation.
Likewise, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos’s inept performance against Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben in the 5-1 defeat to the Dutch dented their reputation irreparably in my eyes.
But is it the end? Is it heck. Parts do need replacing – but look at the next generation of Barcelona youngsters – Gerard Deulofeu, Thiago Alcantara (once a target for Owen Coyle at Wanderers) – or Real’s Jese Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata.
Roy Hodgson has stripped the England squad back and started again. Hopefully we will see the benefit of that in four year’s time.
Spain need to do the same. I don’t think it’s adios just yet.
Ilesy’s TV heaven
WE finally appear to have a convincing co-commentator in Danny Murphy. Concise, amusing, if a little prone to in-jokes. Should get a top game.
Ilesy’s TV hell
ITV regular Ian Wright had to fly straight home to London after his family were held at knife-point by robbers. Puts all the pundit banter into perspective, doesn’t it?