After crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages after losing to Chile, it is inevitable that an inquisition will be conducted into why Spain failed to perform in Brazil.
An easy explanation which could be taken at face value is that perhaps it is the end of a natural cycle for Spain. Comparisons can be drawn to previous World Cup winners Italy and France who both went out at the group stages with a whimper in the World Cups that followed their triumphs. However, this inference does not really analyse to any extent the actual reasons behind the failure.
One factor and possibly the most important is the system of play employed by Spain, characterised as “Tiki-Taka”, which involves an emphasis on keeping possession and employing short and quick passing and movement.
While bringing great success for Spain and Barcelona - who both have employed this system of play - recent matches, particularly in the Champions League with Barcelona and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich have indicated that teams have managed to figure out how to counter the style.
This is also compounded by the lack of goals that Spain have managed to score, only managing eight goals on the way to winning the 2010 World Cup. Arsene Wenger commented on Spain’s style during Euro 2012 that “it seems to be first and foremost a way not to lose”, and it seems that this was the driving ideology behind the style that Spain employed, even at times not playing a striker and using for example Cesc Fabregas as a false striker to monopolise possession.
It is clear then, with the emphasis on control, once teams had figured out the best method to disrupt this, that the weak underbelly of the Spanish defence would be exposed which is precisely what happened in the matches against Netherlands and Chile.
Some would also argue that perhaps it was the personnel that Spain utilised that led to their downfall. This would seem harsh and, while a case can be made for Iker Casillas being dropped as he did make notable errors, it is hard to point the blame squarely at the Real Madrid stalwart and Spanish captain.
Undoubtedly there were instances of other players being chosen for the squad based on previous reputation rather than form, most notably Fernando Torres who is a shadow of his former self and David Villa who seems to be in a semi-retirement mindset. However, other than the players mentioned, most individuals if shown the Spain lineup for the Netherlands match prior to the game would most likely have approved of the players chosen.
Therefore, it has to be questioned whether it was rather not the talents of the players in question but their seeming lack of motivation to perform to the best of their abilities.
Indeed both the Dutch and Chilean teams seemed much more focused and in general more hardworking than a lethargic looking Spain. It is this issue, and the reasons behind it that will need to be addressed by the players, manager and the Spanish Football Federation if they ever want to achieve the great heights of previous years.
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