End of the Spanish era

End of the Spanish era

In the hit US series 'The Wire', which explores the intricate relationship between drug dealers and cops in the city of Baltimore, one of the main protagonists, Omar Little, says: "You come at the king, you best not miss." 

Unfortunately for Spain, both Chile as well as The Netherlands didn't just come at the king as much as perform a flawless hatchet job on them. 

They came into the tournament hoping to win a fourth consecutive international title and a second World Cup on the spin. Instead, they became the third champions in the last four World Cups to be sent packing at the first hurdle (France 2002, Italy 2010). 

Spain, and their posse of orchestrators in the middle of the park, were one of the pre-tournament favourites to win the entire thing. But the chinks were starting to show -- a loss in the Confederations Cup final to Brazil, Barcelona struggling in the Champions League and its senior statesman, Xavi Hernandez, struggling to be the metronome that he was in 2008, 2010 and 2012. 

There were other aspects to the defeat – most of Spain's A-listers have had only one off-season since the beginning of the 2008 season (2011-12). Add to that the workload of Barcelona and Real Madrid players who have consistently done well in the Champions League in recent seasons and it's not hard to pinpoint fatigue as one of the key factors. 

Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso have played about a 1,000 games between them since that heady night in the Euro final in 2008. And when Vicente Del Bosque again started these three, there were question marks about whether he was placing loyalty ahead of merit. 
Atletico Madrid's skipper, Gabriel Fernandes, who enjoyed a stellar season for the Los Colchoneros, might have a valid claim to be Spain's best midfielder this season. Yet, he wasn't even selected.

The gloriously named Koke Resurreccion, another of Atletico's success stories, was thrown on as a belated substitute against Chile. Other midfielders like Ander Iturraspe, who enjoyed a stellar season with Athletic Bilbao, were cut off from the final squad after being named in the initial 30-man squad. 

Does this feel like the end of an era? It does insofar that while the beginnings are marked with great victories, the end, or at least the beginning of the end, are marked with terrible lows. This is, after all, Spain's worst ever performance at the Finals. 

But there is no need for any radical overhaul of their theory.  A three-peat of titles and inculcating one of the biggest changes in football’s modern philosophies after the Dutch came about with totaalvoetball. 

In the same US series, the same character did also say that 'a man must have a code.' Spain do have one, they just need to work on it.