There we have it, World Cup 2010 winners Spain exited the 2018 edition at the hands of host nation Russia on Sunday evening. Penalties decided the game after the tight clash finished 1-1 in normal and extra-time.
In truth, Spain were like a blunt pencil, pointless. They produced 1000 passes against Russia but lacked any penetration at all. The likes of Sergio Busquets and Koke controlled the central midfield area but seemed happy to go nowhere quickly.
Certainly not Tiki-Taka
When Pep Guardiola at Barcelona made the Tiki-Taka style of football famous in the late noughties, the philosophy spread to the national team. A number of the Spanish players were playing for the Catalan giants.
The Spanish national team has preferred the possession-based style of football ever since, even if it is not quite Tiki-Taka. The method of football Spain played against Russia was just constant passing just for the sake of retaining the ball.
Guardiola once stated his loathing of unproductive passing. Well, La Roja’s approach was precisely that against Russia.
It was not until the introduction from the substitute’s bench of Andres Iniesta, Iago Aspas and Rodrigo that Fernando Hierro’s side looked an attacking threat before that they were toothless.
Had barely any shots on target
I am not sure how Spain expected to beat Russia. La Roja failed to have a shot on target until the 45th minute against the host nation. Then after the break, they again failed to have a shot on target for 40 minutes.
As the old saying goes, ‘You have to buy a ticket to win the raffle’. Unfortunately, Spain seemed scared to buy a ticket, and Russia won the raffle. The host nation just produced a steady defensive display until penalties, when they knew goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev could prevent the Spaniards from scoring with their spot-kicks.
No major work needed
While some countries headed home with significant work required on their squads, Spain has enough talent and young players in their team to come again at Euro 2020. In truth, they were on a hiding to nothing in Russia.
La Roja losing their coach Julen Lopetegui two days before the competition kicked off was not exactly ideal preparation. In fact, it must have had a significant effect on the team. Hierro is an experienced football man, but highly inexperienced when it comes to management.
A more experienced boss would maybe have known how to change things around to make his team more dangerous going forward.
The next coach will no doubt be a high-profile boss with reasonable managerial experience. An era might be ending for some of the older players, but there is still enough talent in and around their squad to be hopeful for the future.
The next choice of coach could be the key to just how La Roja fare in the near future. However, it is almost a certainty that Fernando Hierro will not be taking the job on a permanent basis.
Spain will be disappointed with their performance in Russia. However, the home nation deserved credit for the way they stuck in there and believed that they could go through. Croatia should provide the Russians with slightly more to think about in the quarter-finals, though.
Who is responsible for Spain’s failures at the World Cup?