The wheels have well and truly fallen off for Spain's U21 side.
The future of La Roja seemed to be in reasonably safe hands but there must be genuine concerns at their plight at this juncture following a quite horrendous run of results. Prior to October of 2014, the youngsters had arguably fared even better than their senior counterparts, remaining unbeaten for over three and a half years.
However, without a win in four games has not only seen their dreams of retaining the European Championships evaporate, but qualification to the 2016 Olympics is now also out of the question.
Defeats against Serbia and Belgium have been abject and against the latter, the Spanish youngsters were well and truly humbled 4-1. With such talent in place, one has to ask the question as to why the bubble has burst all of a sudden?
Looking at club form, Iker Muniain hasn't enjoyed the best of campaigns so far for Athletic Club, and Marc Bartra is still to make a real impression at Barcelona. Devoid of confidence, it's a reasonable assumption to make that their form could well have carried over to international level.
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But one can't level that excuse at Gerard Deulofeu or Munir El-Haddadi for example. The latter at least got on the score sheet in the Belgium defeat, but both have been nowhere close to the level they've achieved for their clubs this season. It won't be too much longer before the likes of Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas et al follow Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and David Villa into the international wilderness.
The "golden generation" is slowly, but surely, fragmenting. As each superstar hangs up his boots, or gloves, for the final time, there is an expectation that the next generation will take Spain forward to even greater successes.
With failure to qualify for the next two biggest tournaments now a reality for the U21's, the progression of Spanish football per se has hit the proverbial brick wall. David De Gea, for example, will find his growth at international level completely stunted unless Vicente Del Bosque decides to have the Manchester United stopper in and around the first team on a regular basis.
The same applies to any other youngster looking to make the step up. It's been a long time since Spain had to go back to the drawing board, but that's exactly what's needed if the new crop of youngsters are to bring La Roja back out of the post World Cup doldrums.
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