Spain signed off their disappointing World Cup campaign with a 3-0 victory over Australia although the result did little to paper over the significant cracks.
The 5-1 mauling at the hands of Holland in their opening game was followed by a 2-0 defeat to the impressive Chile which meant the reigning World and European champions were out of the competition with a game to spare.
The performance of Vincente Del Bosque’s side, who were fancied by many to defend their crown, has led to widespread speculation around the future of the manager and many of their key players.
Out with the old
Legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas has endured a torrid time between the sticks during the tournament making two crucial errors against Holland and the 33-year-old side has already lost his place at boyhood club Real Madrid for whom he made just two appearances in La Liga last season. Casillas, Spain’s record appearance maker with 156 caps, has admitted he will leave Madrid at the end of next season and is unsure of whether he will represent Spain again.
Meanwhile David Villa, Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer, will take in a loan spell with Melbourne City before completing his move to New York City next season and the 32-year-old forward has already acknowledged that his strike against Australia would be his 59th and last for his country.
There have also been rumours that Casillas’ Madrid teammate Xabi Alonso is ready to hang up his international boots whilst Barcelona’s long standing midfield maestro Xavi has reportedly agreed a deal to move to Qatar with Al-Arabi and at 34 looks set to call time on his international career that has yielded 133 caps for la furia roja.
In with the new
With those players departing taking significant experience with them there are going to be some big voids to fill in Del Bosque’s side but there is an abundance of talent waiting for his call.
In goal there are still the experienced options of Napoli’s Pepe Reina or Victor Valdes who is set to leave Barcelona this summer and missed the World Cup through injury but in David De Gea, Spain have a goalkeeper who can occupy the gloves for the next ten years or more. The 22-year-old has not long graduated to the senior set up but his performances for Manchester United have shown what a class act the former Athletico Madrid ‘keeper really is.
The defensive unit is still of a decent age with Sergio Ramos, 28, and Gerard Pique, 27 providing an experienced central pairing with Jordi Alba, 25, at left back. Athletico’s Juanfran, 29, has played right back in the tournament but Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta will be knocking on that particular door whilst Real’s Daniel Carvajal looks ready to make the step up to the senior ranks as does Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez.
In midfield there are a further wealth of options for Del Bosque to choose from with Sergio Busquets already established in the team and Bayern Munich’s Javi Martinez having been around the squad for some time. At 22, Koke has captured the interest with a host of Europe’s top clubs and looks destined for a great career whilst seemingly imminent Manchester United arrival Ander Herrera is yet to be capped for the national side, a situation that will surely change soon. Former Barcelona man Thiago will be hoping to stay free of injury and will surely feature going forward if that is the case whilst Isco was another who could be considered unlucky to have missed out this time around.
For the forward line a choice needs to be made over whether Diego Costa is to be the focal point of Spain’s attack, if as it appears he is then a change of approach may be required as the lethal striker looked isolated all too often throughout the World Cup campaign. In demand Real striker Álvaro Morata and Madrid teammate Jese look bright prospects whilst Athletic Bilbao and Spain Under 21 captain Iker Muniain is another looking for his chance having collected his first and only senior cap over two years ago.
Whilst Spain’s performance was shocking, it can be considered more of a wake-up call than a crisis with the amount of young talent waiting in reserve. With a qualifying group for Euro 2016 containing Ukraine as the biggest threat they will be expected to and should progress to the finals in France and this is the perfect opportunity to unleash a new look Spain on the rest of the world.
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