The Fall Of Spanish Football : Where did it all go wrong for Spain?

Back in 2012, the Spanish Football Association were on top of the footballing world. La Liga was booming with the glamorous and expensive football likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona. The Spanish national team had just won the Euro 2012 and were being considered “ The greatest football team Of all time” by various footballing experts. They had claimed the World Cup two years prior in 2010 and were trademarking a new style of football called “ Tiki Taka”. Everything seemed to be going right for Spain; in major tournaments they were unbeatable and in friendlies they played extraordinarily.

Fast forward to the World Cup 2014, as Spain lost their opening game 5-1 to the Netherlands, and followed that with a 2-0 defeat to Alexis Sanchez’s Chile. And now in 2015, we ask the baffling question: Where did it all go wrong for La Roja?

The Fall Of Spanish Football: Where did it go wrong?

Triumph often comes with a price. It is evident in the very familiar tale of teams who play majestic football in one tournament, only to crash and fail to impress in their next. This of course is especially recurring in international football competitions as they are usually spaced out due to club teams dominating the calendar.

We can look at the example of France, who won the FIFA World Cup in 1998 only to play the group stages in 2002 without scoring a single goal. In 2006, France played a star-studded Italian team, in the end finishing runners-up after an intense penalty shoot out. This was ended with France having awful subsequent World Cup performances in 2010 and 2014.

This scenario is just another proving how great teams let the calendar slip away. This is what came into play as Spain descended into footballing chaos.

After the Euro 2012, “La Roja” knew that they had to come up with something quickly or they would face problems in the future. Everyone had seen Spain at their best in their World Cup victory in 2010 and then their thrashing of Italy 4-0 to take their third Euro trophy in 2012. Teams now recognised the Spanish style of play, they recognized that in “Tiki Taka” you don’t head the ball forward, you possess it and move your way up. If that doesn’t work, you rebuild and find another way in. Tiki taka had an unprecedented philosophy that the world hadn’t seen before. As with any new system, teams begin to find ways to counter this style of play.

At the Confederations Cup Final in 2013, Spain were slapped with reality. The host’s Brazil went into a game that was said to preview next Summer’s World Cup. Brazil got the early lead in the second minute and quickly took control of the game, and long after, Spain found themselves losing 3-0 in a game that should have raised hopes for the summer of 2014 but did the exact opposite. It raised concerns of how easy it was for Brazil to shut down Spain, and was perhaps the evidence needed to show how teams could break down tiki taka.

For Spain, having to change years worth of drills, practices and the assimilation to a new style of football seemed impossible. The game was quickly put to rest by the Spaniards as they brushed off speculation that they did not deserve FIFA’s controversial top ranking. Spain continued their hopes for a good year and played generally well, only losing 1-0 to South Africa in a match that was almost called off due to Spain using too many substitutes.

In Brazil 2014, the Spanish plummeted. World Champions four years before, they failed to make it out of the group stages. Spain were expected to at least make the Quarterfinals, but somehow they were unable to play at their normal stride. In their opening game against the Netherlands, they were constantly forced to deal with the Dutch counter attacks and high pressure tactics. Spain, being used to play with space and time, were rendered hopeless and entered panic mode as the Netherlands scored to make it 2-1. With desperation often comes the lack of a clear play which resulted in Spain’s break down. The game ended 5-1, Spain were defeated and humiliated. It was clear that their tactics did not work any longer.

Teams that usually triumph in tournaments like the Euro or the World Cup are marked with a “red X” by other teams. Usually they are studied and their plays are broken apart by teams that are hungry for trophies. Germany, for example, had reached the semi-finals in the last two World Cup tournaments. This was a problem for Joachim Low who was craving success on the international stage. Low, in collaboration with his German FA, examined and studied the Spanish style of play, looking at what worked and what didn’t. The Germans borrowed some elements that won Spain the World Cup in 2010 and combined them with the German style of play. Spain were now at a major disadvantage as teams were creating new styles of football with faster and younger players. Teams now knew how to defend against tika taka, and they knew how to effectively attack against it, tearing down the “ triangular passing” scheme deployed by Spain and F.C Barcelona. Spain were now left without their most effective tactic and they knew that this page of football would have to be finally turned.

While Spain’s national team is no longer at their best level, there is still plenty of hope for “La Roja” in 2016 and 2018. Spain have an impressive array of future players in their pocket with the likes of Munir El Haddadi, Sandro Ramirez, Sergi Samper and many more. While it will still be difficult for Spain to reach the heights that they reached in 2010 and 2012, they can still build a new style of football like the one that conquered the footballing world. Maybe we’ll see Spain unroll a new group of youngsters or maybe we’ll see them lifting up trophies in the Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018. All of this is speculation, but one thing is certain: It’s time to make way for the next generation of Spanish talents.

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