Spain did not just lose out to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, they were completely outplayed from start to finish.
Yes, tiki-taka wasn’t in full flow in Rio. Yes, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets were nothing near the supremos we have come to know and admire. Yes, Iker Casillas probably had his worst outing in his 148 caps, and yes, Spain's defence that night could be mistaken for Tahiti's. However, this is not the end of tiki-taka and Spain as we know it - not by a long shot.
It is always in times like these that people let loose and start firing conclusions. But most of the time it turns out to be a rushed judgment.
Teams lose for various reasons - like being outplayed, employing wrong tactics or things just not working out at all like they should. For Spain in Rio, it was a convergence of all of these.
Sergio Ramos missed a penalty, Fred scored a rather fortuitous goal and David Luiz made a goal-line clearance. Coincidence? I think not.
Let me set something straight before I even go any further. I am not in any way, shape or form suggesting that Brazil got lucky. They did not. They totally outplayed Spain, they were every goal worthy and deservingly won. But it would be ignorant not to acknowledge and take cognisance of surrounding factors and elements.
However, it goes beyond that. When you press the way Brazil do, you leave gaps and spaces that can be exploited, especially by a needle-threading team like Spain. Well, not on that night, it just did not happen.
"They chased us all over the pitch, they weren't afraid to be physical and get stuck in and it broke our rhythm," said Vicente Del Bosque. Factual, very factual from la Roja’s boss. Precisely why I lay the baton of blame squarely on him.
If there was ever a time when the lack of a ‘plan B’ proved to be the decisive factor between Spain winning or otherwise, it has to be that night. The kind of pressing, harrying and hustling strategy employed by Scolari requires a tactical re-invention and application.
Spain should have adapted to it and responded with an ace card of their own. As we witnessed when Bayern Munich employed the same strategy against Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, Spain were stifled of space and time with which to operate at their absolute destructive maximum.
What they needed to do was throw a curve ball right back. But they didn't - no direct passing, no-one attempting to run at the heart of Brazil’s back-line, no occasional long ball forward to Fernando Torres or in behind for Pedro, no shots from outside the area, no putting men behind the ball - nothing. Spain stuck to what they know, and they got battered for their stubbornness.
Then there were the personnel decisions. It's not so much Alvaro Arbeloa, even though he did have a nightmare against Neymar, but then you do not drop your regular starter. Playing Juan Mata and Torres was ill-advised and in hindsight, plain wrong.
Mata was simply bundled off the ball too often, forced into blind alleys, denied space when he came inside (as was Iniesta) and never really stayed out wide to stretch Brazil and give Spain an outlet when it got tight in the middle of the park.
Jesus Navas should have started and with his explosive pace, would have surely exploited Marcelo’s forays forward as he did when he came on against Italy. Cesc Fabregas, the master of the false number nine role was left out and the more physical Javi Martinez (off the back of a spectacular season with treble-winners Bayern), would have added steel and cover for Spain.
El Nino, apart from the reverse pass to Mata that almost set up Pedro, did nothing. He did not get stuck in, didn’t win any aerial duels, didn’t hold up play to bring his teammates in the game nor troubled the centre-back pairing of Luiz and Thiago Silva in the same way Mario Balotelli did. David Villa is more technically gifted, but even El Guaje is no longer the player he once was.
Therefore, it is easy to see why they lost. Spain have a lot of re-thinking to do before they return to the grandest stage next year. Gerard Pique and Ramos were playing like schoolboys - they got drawn out of position time and again like a moth to a light.
Carles Puyol’s leadership and discipline were sorely missed. Casillas had a night to forget in-between the posts, as well as Arbeloa and to some extent, Busquets (though in his defence, the ageing legs of Xavi did little to cover him in the face of the yellow hurricane).
However, in Del Bosque, Spain have a seasoned manager. He has been there and done it and was graceful in defeat. He will recognise his mistakes, in the same way he did when Spain lost in the same competition four years ago to the USA and bounced back to win the World Cup a year later.
Their style of play will not die - it just cannot. Intsead, they will have to find a way of adapting to such strategies that are meant to nullify their talents perfected by the tiki-taka brand of Spanish football.
The challenge is to study these strategies and minimise the chance of them happening again. Do that and Spain will be, just as they were before the tournament began, the favourites to win it all in the World Cup - when it really counts.
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