Last Wednesday night Spain, the current world champions, were the first team to be knocked out of the 2014 World Cup after losing 2-0 to Chile in a match which forced a worldwide reaction because it was undoubtedly a huge shock.
The defeat by Chile had been preceded by a 5-1 mauling by the Netherlands where Louis Van Gaal’s ‘Oranje’ had tore them apart in a fine display of athletic, attacking football.
This Spanish side have reigned supreme over world football for the last six years and, looking at them in their prime, are rightly lauded as one of the greatest teams of all time. Winning three back to back international trophies is mightily impressive, but the style in which they won those titles is even more startling and is the reason why this generation of ‘La Roja’ will never be forgotten.
Lots of people were quick to laugh at Spain or poke fun at the fact that they had performed so badly on a stage where so much was expected of them, but this is not how I think they should be treated.
Spain came into their pomp off the back of Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup which had been won by Greece and Italy respectively. Those tournaments were won by teams playing ultra-defensively and conservative pragmatism was seen as the ‘only way to win the big tournaments’. Then Spain enter the fray at Euro 2008 and bring with them their new possession based football and swept all before them.
What Spain did shaped the thinking of the game of football, controlling possession is now seen as the key tenant of ‘good football’ even in the Premier League where pace and power were sometimes prioritised over technical ability.
It is also important to remember the forgotten men of this Spanish period of dominance. When thinking of this Spanish side people cannot be blamed for thinking: Casillas, Puyol, Ramos, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa and Torres… you know… before Fernando lost the plot.
However, there were so many more contributing factors to their success, Marcos Senna and Joan Capdevila played crucial roles in the Euro 2008 triumph which started this era of superiority. Luis Aragones managed the team to that 2008 success, before passing on the reigns to Vicente Del Bosque and dying just a few short weeks ago.
Dominance in football is cyclical; every generation’s world-beaters begin to fade with age or are upstaged by the new kids on the block, which is what has happened to Spain.
There should be more appreciation for what this generation of players have achieved though. They have revolutionised the landscape of a sport which has been around for centuries and for that they deserve a huge amount of credit.