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Five Aside: Matchday 12

Five Aside Jun 23, 2014
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 Posted by Rob Train
Jun 26, 2014

Assessment: Spain's dismal show

Fernando Torres was just one of a string of Spain players to suffer at the World Cup.

World champions Spain suffered a disastrous World Cup and it could be the end of an era -- ESPNFC blogger Rob Train tries to find any bright points of the campaign as well as what went wrong.

Sum up Spain's World Cup in one sentence

An unmitigated disaster that signalled the end of the most successful team in Spanish football history.

All team assessments

Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Finalists: Argentina
Winners: Germany

Star Man

It is perhaps more pertinent to ask which players might not lose their role in the squad after the Brazil debacle. Andres Iniesta seems certain to stay on and was one of few players who performed to somewhere near his own impeccable standards. David Silva did little wrong but again displayed his inconsistency and was fairly anonymous against Chile. However, had his chipped shot evaded the glove of Jasper Cillessen late in the first half in Salvador with Spain a goal to the good against Netherlands, this World Cup might have panned out very differently for both sides involved.

Of the recent call-ups and fringe players, nobody did anything to further their cause and most didn't get on the field at all; Koke's first chance came against Chile and although he failed to provide much impetus, he will have many more.

Highlights

The first half against Netherlands, when the world was still spinning merrily away on its axis. Iker Casillas made a fine save from Arjen Robben early on while Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta were pinging the ball around in the other half, probing the Dutch defence for weaknesses. There was an air of inevitability as Alonso slotted home the penalty won by Diego Costa, and despite Robin van Persie's wonderful header at the end of the first 45 minutes, Spain looked to be on top. Few would have predicted the second half unfolding as it did.

Iker Casillas' international career appears to be over, but Andres Iniesta is expected to help guide Spain's next generation.

Low Points

Probably the epitome of Spain's misery was Netherlands' fourth when Casillas misjudged a back pass and allowed van Persie to poke home. But the second, when Robben turned Gerard Pique inside out and beat Sergio Ramos and Casillas with a shot through the middle, was almost as embarrassing for a trio of players with well over 300 caps between them. That few in Spain genuinely believed in a result against Chile only compounded the sense that all was doom and woe.

Lessons Learned

The components of the Spanish national youth sides are perfectly capable of keeping tiki-taka ticking over, but is it time to think about a change of tact? When the system was first unveiled it was hailed as a natural evolution of total football, instilled in the Barça youth ranks under Johan Cruyff and extended to the national team, chiefly through Xavi, who watched the Chile defeat from the bench.

Luis Enrique showed at Celta that he will remain faithful to the Camp Nou philosophy, but where Spain go from here is open to question. The first squad for the European Championship qualifiers will be eagerly awaited. A changing of the guard is inevitable. Whether Vicente Del Bosque -- if he remains in charge -- or his successor will be bold enough to change the system as well remains to be seen. The younger players are there, but has tiki-taka had its day?