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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Adios España 2014: End of a Generation

It was halftime in the Chile - Spain match and the score was 2-0. But it wasn't Spain's comeback from a humiliating loss to Holland last Friday. Instead, Chile was on top and it was further proof that this Spanish team would not repeat as world champions.

If Spain's 5-1 loss to Netherlands was a wake up call then the loss to Chile suggests a generational change is needed. 16 out of the 23 called in to Brazil by Vicente del Bosque were part of the 2010 World Cup winning squad. The starting eleven and tactics varied little between games and the tiki taka no longer dazzled, surprised, or was efficient.

For Casillas, today's game was a comedy of errors that scarcely does the storied goalkeeper justice. This wasn't how he wanted to be remembered, nor will it, in the long run. Casillas was at fault in at least one of Holland's goals and certainly for Chile's second. But del Bosque didn't have his new first-choice, Victor due to injury and Casillas got the call because of his years of experience.

It wasn't only Casillas that faltered. Xabi Alonso was clumsy in his decisions and players like Iniesta, David Silva, and Busquets were never quite in sync. Their game was off. It may have been credit to great marking by Chile, but also the time these players have been together. Many of these players are in teams like Barcelona and Real and Atlético Madrid, whose season just ended. Fatigue? 

Maybe a fatigue of style and desire. Not of desiring the cup itself but maybe complacency since they were, until this point, the best in the world. It's true that they repeated in the Euro two years ago but the World Cup is a different tournament with more playing styles. Further, in today's global game, the most studied game is the Spanish style, given its impressive track record both internationally and at club level.

Perhaps the best way to view today's game is as a goodbye to a generation. They let us know they have reached the top and are ready for a new stock of Spanish players. Individuals like Juan Mata, for example. 

So we say goodbye to Xavi, to Casillas, to Puyol and David Villa, to the tiki taka and the joy they brought to the world with a whole new and exciting style of play. Thank you, Spain. May your new generation bring us great goals and memorable games.

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