Football

Spain need to adapt to progress

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End of an era? (©GettyImages)
End of an era? (©GettyImages).

The warning signs were there for Spain, after they were bullied and harassed by Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup, in 2013. Football is a game that is constantly evolving, and Spain were becoming extremely susceptible to pace in the final third, something they lacked. So whilst the decline of Spain, culminating in an early exit from the World Cup courtesy of losses against the Netherlands and Chile, was painful, it wasn't exactly abrupt.

The loss will prove to be a blessing in disguise for Spain, forcing them to adapt to the changing pace of the game. In Koke, Jesé, Isco, Dani Carvajal, Gerard Deulofeu, David De Gea and Iñigo Martínez Spain have a nucleus of footballers who are perfectly formed to play the modern international game.

At the back, David De Gea has lived up to the hype at Manchester United, and a physical introduction to the English game caused him to become physically stronger and mentally more confident and brave. No one can ever question Iker Casillas' temperament over his career, but his confidence, and thus decision making, have starkly declined over the past few seasons, and ultimately led him to be dropped by both Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti. At left back, Jordi Alba will have healthy competition from Alberto Moreno, who looks set to become a world-class left back, as long as he picks his next move sensibly. Likewise, on the right side of defence, both Cesar Azpilicueta and Dani Carvajal are tenacious, quick and already playing week in week out for Chelsea and Real Madrid.

In the centre of defence, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué are young enough, at twenty-eight and twenty-seven respectively, to marshall the Spain back-four for another five years. However, the introduction of Iñigo Martinez is vital, so when Spain need to call upon a different defender they don't have to rely on the services of Javi Martinez, who has never looked fully comfortable in defence.

The introduction of pace in midfield is vital to Spain's redemption. This doesn't necessarily mean foot-speed, but the pace they are able to move the ball from back to front. Koke is the master of linking play with devilish speed, and the sooner he is the central figure in the Spanish midfield, the better. Two out and out wingers would also benefit Spain, so if Deulofeu is able to make an impression at Barcelona he could have a major impact for Los Rojas. The same is true of Jesé, who forced his way into the Real Madrid team before a serious knee injury ruled him out.

Up top, there is absolutely no point in judging Diego Costa's performances in a Spain shirt until he is fully fit. The man personifies hunger and drive, and it was evident that his hamstring injury had stripped him of any ability to be the aggressive bully of a striker we have come to expect. Spain do need to be wary of completely switching their style, and avoiding the temptation to launch the ball to him too often, as this becomes predictable. If Alvaro Morata moves from the Bernabeu and starts scoring regular goals at the top level, he could well be brought in as Costa's deputy. 

The assertion that age is the main reason why Spain have fallen of their perch as World champions is an over-exaggeration, but the trio of Xabi Alonso, Xavi and Iker Casillas should take a back seat now, and use their experience to help the new generation. A slight adaptation of the "tiki-taka" style, and the integration of dynamic, hungry youngsters will have Spain back on top in a short period of time. You only had to take a look at Spain's bench to appreciate the strength in depth available to Vincente del Bosque.

The end of a generation is always a sad period, and for the joy and revolutionary style Xavi and his "tiki-taka" colleagues brought us in their prime, we have to be thankful. Sir Alex Ferguson was the master of overcoming a loss, and driving back stronger, and if Spain want to have a smooth transition period retaining del Bosque is crucial. 

For now Spain will mourn the loss of a generation, but as soon as the tournament is over, the focus will be on an exciting new generation of Spanish footballers, who will have the unenviable task of bettering their surpassing. Whatever you do, don't write Spain off too quickly!   

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Topics:
World Cup
Spain Football
La Liga
Football
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