Four years ago, Barcelona were the most dominant football club in the world and Spain dominated the world cup with relative ease after winning the European championships two years earlier and they went on to successfully defend their European crown two years later playing with more conviction than they had four years earlier. Watching Spain, lead from the front by a seemingly rejuvenated Torres demolish Italy in 2012 it seemed impossible to imagine that two short years later, that same team plus David De Gea, Diego Costa and Koke will concede seven goals and score just one in two matches in Brazil. How did things get this bad?
Well, Vincente del Bosque is guilty of being unable to ensure continuity in the Spanish national side. In 2008 and 2010 when Spain were on top of the world, majority of their players were FC Barcelona players with Puyol and Pique at the heart of the defense and Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta in the middle of the park alongside Alonso and Villa and Pedro either side of Torres. Players like David Silva were simply fringe players. This lead to Spain playing a certain way; the Barcelona way, tiki taka. And since the people who dictated the play on the pitch, Xavi and iniesta, grew up on that pattern it wasn’t a problem for Spain to relegate Alonso to the role of midfield enforcer and the tactic worked. But over the last two years, the weaknesses of tiki taka were exposed first by a ruthless and relentless Bayern side in the 7-nil thrashing of Barcelona and then in Real Madrid’s precise counter attacking annihilation of Bayern a year later and most countries saw a weakness. Del Bosque to his credit however saw that and tried to add a bit of dynamism to his Spain squad, that however backfired badly as what we got was a mix mash of players who didn’t exactly understand their roles. Pique and Ramos are excellent central defenders in their rights but while Ramos is more focused on being disciplined and playing holding a deep line while his partner tightly marked the striker, Pique believes in driving the ball out of defense and tackling high up the pitch. This meant Spain’s center backs were never in sync. While xavi and Iniesta still stayed true to their passing game. Silva is the kind of player who likes to receive the ball wide and then drive in towards the box and Diego Costa is a typical poacher who hardly moves away from the shoulder of the last defender which means there was hardly enough movement for Xavi to move the ball around. When Koke and Carzola came into the party, they looked like round pegs in square holes. This is the result of too many successful footballing philosophies in one team as the Spaniards were often thorn between the swift counter attacking style employed by the two Madrid clubs and the patient build up play employed by Barcelona that had served them so well in recent years.
Its worthy of note also that Xavi at 31, Torres at 30, Casillas, Alonso and Villa at 32 represent a major part of the golden Spanish generation and are all past their prime and these players are tired as in the last three years every member of the Spanish squad has been involved in struggles for league titles with their former clubs played to at least the semifinals of the champions league or Europa league and have been involved in numerous cup competitions as they had little or no break inbetween 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 as they had to appear in the confederations cup before Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona taking the battle for the la liga to the last day, Real Madrid and Barcelona playing in the kings cup final and Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid playing in the champions league final.
It is safe to say Spain is paying the price for being the best footballing country in the world because while their club football has flourished, their national team has suffered.