Spain, World Cup

Spanish Secession in the World Cup

Dejected Iker Pic for BlogAs you know, Spain lost 5-1 to the Netherlands in their World Cup opener last week – and I must be honest with you, when I saw their starting lineup going into the game, confusion rippled through me. Xavi was behind Diego Costa, with Silva occupying the right attacking mid position… and Iniesta the left. Behind them, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets (two midfielders with great positioning, but ultimately playing the same role)  behind them – and honestly, I questioned why César Azpilicueta, a left back, was playing right back, when Jaunfran (who played an insanely important role for Atletico this past year, helping them win the league and get to the Champions league final) was on the bench.

Assessing Spain’s failure in this game is quite simple (and I’ll explain why throughout this post) – like Arsenal – they had way too many midfielder playmakers, and too few attackers. Last week Xavi said, “We (Spain) will live and die by Tika-Taka,” but what Vicente del Bosque needs to realize is this: if he doesn’t field more attacking talent, Spain ultimately commit Tika-Taka suicide.

Furthermore, Vicente del Bosque should have picked either Xabi Alonso, or Sergio Busquets to stand in front his defensem and used a box to box midfielder in front of one of them to pick up the slack and serve as the conduit between their attack and their defense… Just as Modric does for Real (Xavi used to do this, but now is too old for such a role). But, here’s what needs to be realized: Gabi (although older) and Koke of Atletico Madrid really deserved roles as starters in this world cup, THE FUTURE IS NOW for Spain, and clearly Barcelona’s (and Spain’s) lack of success can be partly contributed to two things: 1, their fear of change, and 2, their inability to capitalize on Atletico’s success this past year, and use the  players from Atletico that have performed at the top level all year (and last year).

To be fair, it’s not totally Vicente del Bosque’s fault, the Spanish media would have grilled him had he not picked the right team on paper (the team that has been the most dominant over the past decade), but if Barcelona’s lack of success this year was any indication, he should have known better than to field a midfield that was left trophyless at club level this past year.

Xavi and Iniesta dejected pic for Blog

Fast forward to today, Vicente del Bosque started Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets together (again), omitted Xavi, choosing attack minded Pedro instead (which I agree with), and omitted Pique for Javi Martinez.

Vicente del Bosque did right by picking Pedro over Xavi, but should have started Martinez instead of Xavi Alonso or Busquets, and in front of Ramos and Pique – Javi Martinez needs to be used in his natural position, and where he played best for Bayern two years ago. Furthermore, when Koke came in at half-time in today’s game against Chile, Spain’s play completely transformed: they played more of the second half within Chile’s side of the field and their offensive energy instantly heightened. That said, they still lost, and only managed one goal (through a penalty) so far in this world cup, which is unacceptable and a sign that changes must occur.

Vincent de Bosque Pic for BlogTo review: As is life, everything gets old, and ultimately becomes more ineffective… This is the case with Tika-Taka, and the players that mastered it (Xavi, Iniesta etc.)

Survival is about adaptation, and like I said, THE FUTURE IS NOW, and the “now” has been dominated by teams with success over the past year (Altletico, and it’s Spanish players). A couple more points: This was the world cup that Isco should have taken over for Xavi, plus Navas, after a successful year at Man City, needed to be on the team as well..



30 thoughts on “Spanish Secession in the World Cup

  1. Anonymous says:

    Azpilicueta played at right back in this game because he is a right back – he has been played out of position at left back at Chelsea.

    • Good point – although I think it can be argued that Azpilicueta has transformed into, and is now more naturally a left back after this past year at Chelsea.

  2. christian says:

    Spain had players that were enemies throughout their club season play together for relatively the first time. They should’ve avoided mixing Costa into the fray, especially when he’s coming off of an injury and is vital for scoring goals at his position. I think a full atletico or full barcelona team with Pedro, Iniesta and Fabregas playing forward would’ve been better than this.

    • I partly agree, but I feel despite club rivalries (between players on Barcelona and Real Madrid) Spain have already proven that they can play together as a team (as they’ve shown as they’ve been most successful team over the past decade). I think that they should have used Koke, Gabi, Costa, Juanfran… They should have played more Atletico players as they have been more successful than Barca over the past two years and just as successful as Real. Considering Barca’s failures this past year, Spain should have started players that WERE successful at the club level, and not players that HAD BEEN successful in times past. 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    (1) i think Vicente del Bosque has Alzheimer’s disease.
    (2) Why Costa?
    (3) Villa on the bench?!
    (4) Alonso > Busquets.
    (5) Koke, Martinez, fabregas – what, how, when, …huh?
    (6) Diego Lopez not even on in the squad, hahahaha!

    Vicente del Bosque got paid off by Brazil.

  4. Agree that Xabi Alonso and Busquets should not play together. However I think that friendlies and qualifiers showed that Spain can play well when Costa is not in the lineup. He is a great player but it baffles me that he was chosen to start when he had only played 90 minutes for Spain. The rest of the team has been together for years. Villa, Negredo, Llorente, or even Fabregas should have been in the striker role.

    • Thanks so much for the comment! 🙂

      Yeah it was so frustrating to see Xabi Alonso and Busquets playing the same position!

      I agree that Costa chemistry was lacking, but that’s why I argue that Spain should have utilized the Spanish players that were so brilliant on Atletico this past year – because Costa has so much chemistry with them.

      Had Spain used a combo of Real and Atletico players in their starting lineup, I think that they would have been much better off.

      Plus Isco should have started in Xavi’s place, and Koke for Iniesta…

      • Yes! Agreed! Spanish soccer should have allowed a younger player like Isco (or even Koke) the chance to become the new poster child for their national team. They needed young talent with aggression and flair to take over the world cup.

  5. Frank says:

    I dont think one season playing (very) well at left back makes you “now more naturally a left back” especially since the majority of his career has been at right back. Azpilicueta still plays right back at Chelsea whenever Ivanovic does not play (though that does not happen often). Other than that I think the rest of your post is spot on. Del Bosque gave priority to players based on some sort of loyalty rather than form, everyone can see that. It’s ok, they got what they deserved.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Good point about Azpilicueta, it’ll be interesting to see his role next year if Felipe Luis transfers to the Chelsea squad this summer!

      • Frank says:

        Not to hijack this and make it into some sort of Chelsea post but I think if Azpi can take Ashley Cole starting spot (and we saw how good Cole still was when he got playing time in the CL) he can take competition from Felipe Luis. I see Azpi moving back to right back as Ivanovic will pair more often with Cahil. I dont think John Terry can go another season playing as many games as he did this last one. Then the left back spot is for Felipe Luis and any other competition they bring in for him (Bertrand?).

      • Love talking Chelsea! 🙂

        I believe Ashley Cole will be leaving on free transfer this summer.

        Totally agree with you on your point about Ivanovic, it would be nice to see him pair up with Cahill and see Azpi on the right and Felipe Luis on the left! Terry is getting up there in age, not sure he’ll carry out the same level of play over the next couple of campaigns.

  6. Anonymous says:

    In my opinion, (I don’t really follow La Liga, with teams like Barcelona or Real Madrid, that much so please bear with me) Spain should NOT have stuck with Costa as their striker. Yes, he may have scored way more goals than Torres and Villa did with Chelsea and Atletico, respectively, but he clearly lacked experience here in the WC and it appeared that he was NOT at full strength. Keeping Casillas in the line up has its pros and cons so I won’t go off on that. It’s easy for anyone to say that Spain is past their prime and I believe that to a certain extent. Del Bosque probably needed to pick younger players over older ones to some degree. But at the end of the day though, I just think that Spain was unmotivated and I felt that they believed that they had nothing to play for. Their Tiki-Taka strategy, which was once the best, was very sloppy and did not work at all in this tournament. They did not click at all and everyone seemed just so emotionless, both coaches and players. Hopefully they can regroup by Euro 2016 and find the right players to start another run at world dominance just like they did from 2008-2014.

    • Thanks for the comment Andre! 🙂

      I think they definitely have the young talent to be a force in years to come – it’s a shame that the young talent (Isco, Koke) and some older talent on Ateltico (Juanfran, Gabi) that played really well this year weren’t integrated into the World Cup team.

      On your point about their lack of motivation – I agree, they proved over the past decade to be one of the best (if not the best) team of all time… They didn’t have much else to prove, except that they weren’t capable of aging haha, but it’s quite impossible to pause time. 🙂

      • I’m not biased at all my friend: I keep mentioning them for two reasons, once, for the simple reason that they’ve performed very well all year, and two, because Atletico found more success than Barca over the past year – and the point I make in my article is that it would have served VdB well to notice that and take advantage of it rather than field players that lacked success on the club level and seemed to have lost a step.

    • Bob says:

      This is the most objective opinion of Spain’s performances I have read so far. Thanks for an unbiased and critical observation. I am actually glad that Spain is out of the world cup because I am rooting for 3 non-European, and underdog countries; but I was hoping to see a much better performance from Spain.

      • Thanks for the comment Bob! It’s really appreciated!

        Spain’s run of success was a lot of fun while it lasted, but now that they’re dethroned, it’ll be extremely interesting to see who picks up their former crown – and I’d love to see an underdog do it!

  7. Ofvollib says:

    First of all, I do blame Vicente del Bosque for their defeat.
    I agree with you, “As is life, everything gets old, and ultimately becomes more ineffective… This is the case with Tika-Taka, and the players that mastered it (Xavi, Iniesta etc.)”

    1. The squad : What in the mother of god is VdB doing? He called up shitty attackers like ; Fernando Torres (3 goals in BPL?), David Villa (Had a fine year at AtM, but he isn’t the same as 4 years ago) and Diego Costa, who actually is a great player, but he has been injured just up untill WC. What does VdB Think?
    Solution 1 : He should have picked Negredo, who has had a great year at City, scoring alot of goals, even though he has been a bit injured
    Solution 2 : Fernando Llorente; A starter at Juventus, has had a great first year, even though Tevez has been the better striker. Good with his head.
    Solution 3. Rodrigo, a great attacker for Benfica, scored alot of goal to help Benfica clinch the title. Also reached the finals in the Europe Leauge

    2. Playmakers ?
    VdB must surely be mentally retarded. Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Cazorla, Alonso, Busquets. He has only playmakers! There are no players that can challenge, run deep and score goals (except Pedro)
    He should have picked players like Gabi, who has been the best player for AtM this year, Isco, a great dribbler, who can score, Jesus Navas, someone to challenge the defenders,Jose Callejon, a player that may not be the best individual artist, but reminds alot of Thomas Muller, a player that has fantastic positioning and can score goals! But VdB thought it was best to pick playmakers.

    He fielded only playmakers. From the team he picked, he should haved played Pedro, Koke, Javi Martinez (as midfielder, not defender), Juanfran, who has been one of the best right backs this season.

    Barcelona have proved this season, that their glorious concept, Tiki Taka does NOT work anymore. You dont have to be a football expert to realize that.

    When VdB was employed, Spain already was the best team in the world (after winning EC with Luis Aragones as coach).

    Every team needs a generation change. There is still hope for Spain

    Spain WC squad 2018 :

    ————-De Gea———–
    Carvajal – Ramos – Inigo – Alba

    • Thanks for the comment! Certainly still a lot of hope for Spain to improve as long as they’re reliant and allow their younger generation to grow together on the field!

      Would have been awesome if Jesé was healthy for this one! He would have lit it up given the chance…

      Isco, Jesé, Koke = very very bright future.

      Plus, Costa and Llorente are relatively young… So it’ll be exciting seeing this team transition moving into the future!

  8. Rudy says:

    I guess playing new players that aren’t familiar with the Tiki-Taka, together with players that has been tiki-taka-ing for the past 8 years, was gonna be hard. so the coach had to make a choice and he chose to trust the system, which could have still worked if not for the aging legs. With the amount of stars they have in disposal, they shouldve seen this coming 2 years ago and started playing the others to help them gel into the system instead of playing the usual core of xavi, iniesta, alonso/busquets.

    I guess spain will now be in transition period where the new breeds will learn to gel with the current system, or they will have a new system which will then, also, take time for the whole team to get used to.

  9. Erick says:

    Agree with all the comments here.. Del Bosque did not make the proper adjustments after the first loss. The strategy that worked before, was not going to work with the aging players, and the lack of strikers in thr formation. This will be a lesson learned, the future is bright and i expect a good perfomance vs Australia with a different core of players! Viva Spain!

    • Viva Spain! 🙂

      I want to see Jaunfran, Pique, Ramos, and Alba start on defense.

      Javi Martinez as the Defensive mid in front of the back four.

      Mata and Silva playing ahead of Martinez.

      And Pedro, Costa and Koke up top…

      It would be a nice experiment to see these guys ^ play together! I’m sure it’d be better than what we’ve seen so far!

  10. I don’t agree with everyone that says tiki-taka is dead, and that teams have figured it out. Real tiki-taka means moving the ball all over the field with one-touches driving the opposition crazy. In addition, it means recovering the ball with all out suicidal pressure anytime it’s lost.
    This system is not dead and would still be deadly if performed with precision. Sadly Xavi, Iniesta and Torres do not have the legs for it anymore, but give me a team with those players in their prime and I will take tiki-taka over counter attacks any day.
    Spain and Barca have not failed because tiki-taka is dead, it’s because they are too old to totally commit to it the way it is supposed to be played.

    • Thanks for the comment Allie! You could certainly be right, it might not be a dead strategy! But it’s a point to consider that it’s a strategy that was born through once in a lifetime talents like Xavi and Iniesta… In other words, until talent as good as them comes through the spanish club youth systems, Tika-Taka could be in hibernation for a long time to come. That said, I’m hoping it has a rebirth as it (and the players that performed it best over the past decade) offered some of the most entertaining football ever.

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