Football

Spain's World Cup failure risks ending tika-taka football

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"Gracias, gracias, gracias" - that was the headline of Spanish newspaper Marca on July 2nd 2012. Thank you three times for a side that had won two European championships and a World Cup in six years. Fast forward to 19th of June 2014 and the same paper simply proclaimed "THE END".

Before Spain's game against Chile Cesc Fabregas declared the game was "live or die". In the end it was death, and this may be true of not only La Rojas World Cup dream this year but a style of play that has dominated world football for the best part of a decade.

Robin van Persie was not far off when he said the score against the Dutch could have been "six, seven or eight".

The Spanish have been unceremoniously dumped out of the World Cup after a 5-1 thrashing by Louis van Gaal's Netherlands and a 2-0 defeat against Chile last night.

They sit bottom of Group B with 0 points and boast a goal difference of minus six. They are not the first defending champions to be knocked out at the group stage, Brazil, France and Italy (twice) have all achieved this dubious honour but Spain's defence ranks as the worst ever. 

Xabi Alonso was defiant ahead of Spain's clash with Chile, claiming: "I don't think you can conclude that this generation is finished, we're still alive."

However, a postmortem of the tournament will argue otherwise. Against the Dutch Spain's tika-taka philosophy looked dated as Van Persie and Arjen Robben ran riot. The issues were the same against Chile as a younger, hungrier and fitter side eased to a victory that in truth never looked in doubt once the second goal was turned home.

Alonso is amongst a number of players who may not go to another major tournament. 

In a game in which many expected Vicente Del Bosque to ring the changes he made just two, Javi Martinez replaced Gerrard Pique and Sergio Busquets was favored ahead of Xavi.

The tika-taka style of play that has been the guiding light for six years of Spanish dominance has over the past week for the first time looked ordinary and worn out, as have many of the players who made it so successful.   

At 34, Xavi no longer has the legs to implement the high pressing that tika-taka demands and is perhaps the clearest example of the changing of the guard that must occur if Spain are to rise again.

Del Bosque's decision to leave the man who has epitomised more than any other player the Kaleidoscopic passing brilliance of Spain's  past glory suggests Xavi may not be seen in a Spainish shirt for much longer.

Iker Casillas, who is surely Spain's greatest ever captain, is no longer the world's best goalkeeper and cannot command a place in Real Madrid's starting league line up.

The man fans call San Iker (Saint Iker) has fallen from grace and has made two high profile mistakes in two games this tournament. He, much like Xavi, appears to have had his last chance with the national squad.

Diego Costa had appeared to of solved the problem of Fernando Torres' hiatus from regular goal scoring for the last four years. However, despite Costa's undeniable quality as a goalscorer he thrives upon direct play which is just not the Spanish way and never will be.

If the games against the Netherlands and Chile made for painful viewing the stats that went with them were little comfort. The Spanish recorded their lowest passing accuracy at just 81.7% since 2002, and the seven goals they have conceded so far is five greater than their total in South Africa four years ago.

Whilst few would have expected such a below par performance from Spain at this World Cup it should perhaps not be as surprising as many believe. 12 months ago the Spanish were humbled 3-0 in the Confederations Cup final by Brazil, and at club level tika-taka football has been found wanting and superseded by fast counter attacking play.

The last two winners of Europe's elite club competition have dismantled teams playing the tika-taka style. First Jupp Heynckes Bayern Munich hammered Barcelona 7-0 over two legs, and this year the Bavarian club were on the receiving end of a 4-0 aggregate loss against Real Madrid. Bayern had themselves adopted tika-taka after Pep Guardiola took over in the summer of 2013.

It is often the case that it is darkest before the dawn and this may be true of Spain. They have a group of young hungry players coming through who have won honours at U19 and U21 level.

Koke, at just 22, has been compared to Xavi, and would walk into most national sides, whilst David De Gea should replace Casillas as number one after Brazil.

It will be interesting to see if Del Bosque opts to hand the the 23-year-old Manchester United goalkeeper his first start against Australia next week. Thiago Alcantara represents a player who has been schooled in the tika-taka way at Barcelona's famous La Masia academy. He could become an integral part of the tika-taka philosophies evolution.

One question remaining for the Spanish FA is over the future of Del Bosque. He surely deserves the chance to take Spain to Euro 2016 in France and will more than likely be given it.

The man who is the only manager to win the Champions League, European Championships and World Cup showed an unwillingness to depart from his trusted players in the game against Chile, and he may feel it is time to allow a young hungry manager to mould a young hungry side in his image.

All in all tika-taka is certainly not dead yet but as the BBC's commentary worded it "Spain are against the ropes with a bloodied nose" and now is surely the time to evolve or die

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Topics:
World Cup
Spain Football
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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