The dust has settled on Spanish football, and the horizon is now a little clearer. Views are a little less knee-jerk now, and opinions can be objectively formed.
Now is the time to ask the question that all of the pundits were gleefully lining up to ask in the aftermath of their embarrassing defeat to Brazil: is this the end for Spain?
Firstly, it looks like the squad needs refreshing. For the love of all that is holy, why is Raul Albiol still there? The central defender only started 19 out of 61 games for Real Madrid last season, and has been usurped by the likes of Varane and Pepe.
His inclusion is symptomatic of other squad worries too; why is Pepe Reina, who had a shaky season at Liverpool, in the squad, but Diego Lopez, who had a very good six months in goal at Real Madrid, isn’t?
As a matter of fact, why does Iker Casillas, having not played a competitive game for six months, walk back into the starting line-up for Spain? Why are Arbeloa’s deficiencies overlooked? Why does Pedro start ahead of Jesus Navas? These are questions for Vincent Del Bosque to answer.
Secondly, the defence is porous. Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos often look like strangers defending together, they are easily exposed by one long ball and are sometimes lucky to even finish games.
Furthermore, while Alba can provide vital extra attacking input, the side are often left looking short defensively down the left because Sergio Busquets, Pique, Ramos and Arbeloa don’t effectively cover him. The defence needs work and drilling to click effectively.
Finally, there appears to be a need to return to Plan A. Possession, control of space, controlling the game. Control was the key word throughout World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012.
Some called it boring, which I disagreed with, but Spain controlled the games and bent them to their will. They suffocated the opposition and then dragged them into submission.
In Brazil, they were sloppy in possession by their standards, unable to control games. Italy, and to an extent Nigeria, found ways to disrupt Spain before eventually succumbing. Brazil squashed Spain, and then got the goals to go with it.
However, there are some extenuating circumstances. For a start, Spain looked absolutely knackered. Coming into the final, they had a day’s less rest than Brazil, and had completed 120 minutes in the semi-final against Italy. Five games in 15 days is a hectic schedule, and rest days take on huge importance. Factor in the humidity and the heat, and Spain were at a serious disadvantage.
Beyond this though, this tournament, at the end of yet another long season, was the fifth tournament in the last six years that Spain have had to play in. The cumulative effect of that constant playing schedule was telling, and the players could not keep up. Del Bosque went as far to say that his squad were just thinking about going home even before the semi-final.
Also, Spain were without the injured Cesc Fabregas, who fits into their system as the false 9 that they started with against Uruguay. Instead, they were left with Torres up front, sticking out like a sore thumb.
Moreover, there is fresh blood still to come through for Spain. The likes of the Sociedad pair Inigo Martinez and Asier Illarrimendi, Thiago Alcantara and new Real Madrid signing Isco can breathe new life into the squad.
So, was the Confederations Cup the end for Spain? I don’t think it is. There are certainly things that need looking at, but don’t be surprised if Spain rise from the ashes, dust themselves down, and come back to Brazil stronger next year.
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