Four mistakes that contributed to Spain’s World Cup failure
In one of the biggest shocks of the World Cup so far, Spain have been dumped out at the round of 16 stage by the hosts Russia. Many expected them to go all the way this summer, but after a premature exit for the 2010 winners, the post-mortem is underway.
Spain’s tournament got off to a shaky start before a ball had been kicked. On the eve of the tournament, they sacked Julen Logetegui after he agreed to take up the top job at Real Madrid when the World Cup was over, and was replaced by Fernando Hierro.
They began with a thrilling 3-3 draw with Portugal, thanks in part to a double from striker Diego Costa. They looked certain to win the game, before Cristiano Ronaldo completed a hat-trick and secured his side a point with a brilliant last minute free kick.
They picked up their first win in their next game with Iran, but that didn’t come easy. It needed a scrappy second-half goal from Costa, while Iran missed a number of opportunities to earn themselves a point.
Progression to the round of 16 was secured with an unconvincing 2-2 draw with Morocco, in which they twice had to come from behind. Finishing top of the group meant that Spain were in the weaker side of draw, giving them potentially a much simpler path to the final than if they had finished below Portugal, and ended up in the other half of the draw.
Questions will be asked about what went wrong for Spain, as they will have targeted the world title in Russia. These are four mistakes that they made in the run-up to, and during, the tournament.
#1 Sacking Lopetegui two days before their opening game
The president of the Spanish Football Federation, Luis Rubiales, insisted that he had no choice but to sack Lopetegui after he announced his move to Real, claiming he was told just five minutes before the public announcement. The move to sack him is understandable, but that doesn’t make it the right one. Ethically, it probably wasn’t right for Lopetegui to do what he did, but two days before their first game, he was the right man to lead them into the tournament.
A new manager was never going to come into the Spain camp and make drastic changes to the way they played. All Spanish sides, from the youth teams to the senior teams, play the same way, so in that respect, Hierro was going to change very little. There is no doubt that a change of manager would cause disruption in the dressing room though.
Lopetegui understood the squad after two years in the job, and the squad understood him. It may not have had a massive effect on their tactics and style, but the change in management certainly had a mental impact.