It took one half of football for the world to realize that something was not right with this Spanish side. The second half for this Spanish team had people scrambling to hide under the premise of how Spain’s last World Cup had begun. However, the entire build-up to the next game had nearly everyone starting to realize that a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Dutch could not be compared to the last WC loss for Spain. Then, the wheels did not just fall off the Spain wagon…they flew off. As Chile celebrated their second goal, the realization that an era was ending fell hard upon world football: Spain was eliminated from the Cup after the second match day.
While the finger pointing will continue throughout the rest of the tournament, it might not be as much of a mistake within the Spain squad as realization and change from the rest of the world. For over half a decade, the world within club and international football was dominated by tiki-taka. Barcelona and Spain took full advantage of the tactic’s effectiveness, and the world watched as trophies piled up for Spain and Barcelona. Some called it beautiful, some called it boring, and some just watched as teams were unable to amass any kind of defense to football’s newest form of “dominance.”
There is a reason why no strategy has stood a true test of time and why no strategy is universally used. There is also a reason why every team eventually falls. Eventually, no matter how effective, someone figures out how to win against any particular opposition. Tiki-taka is no different. Barcelona has already experienced the consequences of anti-tiki-taka football, now, it is Spain’s turn. Constant pressure, making sure that every ball that gets turned over results in an immediate and precise counter-attack, and never giving any of the playmakers any time to pick that killer pass.
While there may be no positives to immediately see for any Spanish fans or Spanish players, there is some silver lining to be found in the current situation. With the exit of Spain from the World Cup, the movement towards the next generation can occur. A huge portion of this Spanish side will be all but useless to future Spain efforts by the time the next World Cup arrives, so there is no better time to start preparing than right now. Players like Xavi, Iniesta, Ramos, Pique, Xabi Alonso, Casillas, and others will be of no use to Spain in 2018…and a loss like this will allow the transition to take place much easier that it would have if Spain had made a deep run.
The world of writers, fans, commentators, and pseudo-analysts will play the blame game until Euro 2016. However, we choose to salute tiki-taka and Spain as they controlled the entirety of World Football for so long. We also know that Spain will have a youth culture strong enough to return them to contention. We only wonder when the next strategy that has the type of dominance that we saw with tiki-taka arises, and how long it will stand on top of the footballing mountain. Spain will view this failure as the perfect stepping stone to the future…if they can embrace it. With the talent that Spain produces, the world should start hoping that they focus more on their present failures instead of turning to their future…otherwise, the safety from La Furia Roja might be short lived.