Spain’s dynasty is over - but they won't be down for long

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque has been given backing from players and his bosses

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There’s a peculiar irony that the King of Spain signed his abdication papers on the same day that Spain bowed out of the World Cup.

Spain lauded its new king, Felipe the IV, on Thursday, as the country mourned its second defeat in two games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Chile were the victors on this occasion, by two goals – but the margins, on the pitch, were huge. The South Americans engineered a superb win – goals coming from Charles Aranguiz and Eduardo Vargas - their opponents with a high-energy, all-action display.

Back home, the Spanish press reacted strongly: “Farewell to the World. Humiliated, beaten, crushed, without pride or honour. In the saddest way,” said 20 minutos, while Super Deporte described the exit as an “unmitigated debacle.”
Even respected newspaper Marca said it was “the end” for this era of Spanish football. “The lowest point in the history of the national side.”

But the obituaries for Spanish football and ‘tiki-taka’ are slightly premature. Firstly, Spain barely ticked the fundamental ideas of ‘tiki-taka’ during the World Cup this summer and in warm-up matches. The style of high-pressing, precision-passing football was more of a cultural phenomenon than merely just an ideology of how to send 11 players out on to the pitch every Saturday.

It has changed Spain’s image around the world, amid major economic concerns and high unemployment. The emergence of the triumvirate of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi (of course, not Spanish) was central to the success of tiki-taka at Barcelona when Pep Guardiola was head coach.

This is now how Spain have tackled the 2014 World Cup. It’s been miles away from the Barcelona-grown style – lacking in relentless pressing in attack, complementing a higher, but assured, defensive line and the gorgeous combinations in tight-spaces. The problem was that the current Spanish side failed to play effectively in that style – players were out-of-form, some exhausted, others asked to take on other responsibilities.

The man in the dugout, though, Vicente del Bosque, has been given backing from players and his bosses. The Spanish Football Federation won’t turn their back on the experienced coach now.

It all points to a small shake-up, one or two minor tinkers and Spain will be raring to go for the 2016 European Championships. The tinkers could come in the shape of Atletico Madrid’s Koke and Bayern Munich’s Thiago Alcantara.

In the opinion of many, Atletico’s Koke should have played a greater role. He sat in the shadows of Xavi and Xabi Alonso, even although the 22-year-old’s performances had been sterling in winning the Spanish championship and reaching the UEFA Champions League final.

In the landscape of European football, you would struggle to find two more complete midfield players than Koke and Thiago. Then there’s dynamic Real Sociedad defensive-midfielder Iñigo Martínez, his Barcelona counterpart Sergi Roberto; the Real Madrid attacking star Isco and his goal-getting accomplices Jese Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata.

In the opposite mould of a footballer, the goalkeeper, concerns have been raised over what Real’s Iker Casillas can contribute to the national side following several key blunders. But, those worries can be put to bed when Manchester United’s 23-year-old David de Gea stands as an able replacement.

Moreover, the Spanish U-21 national team hasn’t lost a match since November 2009. That’s 33 matches. They have won the last two U-21 European Championships and two of the last three U19 events.

The components of ‘tiki-taka’ are central to training young players across Spain. They’ll continue to produce players of that style and as Xavi admitted this week, the national side will “live-and-die” by playing this way. Tiki-taka may be resigned to defeat this time around – but Spain will return, as will the possession-based football.

Football forms around this cycle, after all.