The rise and fall of Spain’s golden generation
A team that turned out to be a formidable force in 2008 seems to have lost it’s enchantment as well as it’s supremacy. Spain wave goodbye to a generation as they exited UEFA Euro 2016 having been outthought and outfought by the Italians. The signs were there throughout the tournament, and especially in the defeat against the Croats and a once glorious Spanish team has been reduced to a shadow of its self.
A football side which clinched not only back to back Euro but also La Roja’s first ever World Cup thanks to Andres Iniesta's dramatic stunner back in 2010. Spain seemed a team that could achieve more considering the brilliance and dexterity they had in their team. But right after UEFA Euro 2012, Spain’s ascendancy started falling apart piece by piece. We look at the highs and the lows of Spanish football over the past 8 years.
UEFA Euro 2008
Spain’s dominance in football started with the victory in the Euro 2008 final where they outplayed Germany which largely was a one-sided match. The decisive goal came in the 33rd minute from none other than the team’s star player, Fernando Torres. Midfield architect Xavi earned the assist after providing an absolute magnificent through ball. Spain was dominant throughout the match and ultimately went on to win the match with the scoreline being 1-0. The fans experienced something which seemed surreal and it was remarked as once in a generation event: Spain lifting a trophy as European Champions.
FIFA World Cup 2010
World Cup 2010. Road to glory. The year La Roja fans recall with utmost exuberance. The year Spain created history winning the World Cup for the first time ever. After an exhilarating campaign, they marched on to World Cup 2010. In spite of being the favorites to lift the cup, Spain’s opening match against Switzerland reminded that if Spain anything less than their best would leave the door off the latch. Regardless of the first match, they went on to win rest of the matches by narrow margins and ultimately the moment arrived when their dedication and forbearance finally paid off. Football presented us a new World Cup Champion.
UEFA Euro 2012
Spain entered Euro 2012 as the favorites and proved the world why they were not wrong. Spain emerged Euro champion for the 3rd time trouncing Italy to a 4-0 outcome. David Silva, Jordi Alba, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata found the back of the net respectively. What bothered Del Bosque during the tournament was the absence of an in form no. 9 for which he opted for Cesc Fabregas to lead the attack ahead of Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Torres as a ‘false nine’ role. But eventually, Torres went on to win the Golden boot while Xavi became the first player to register assists in two Euro finals. Spain’s colossal feat in addition to their Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 successes, made them the first team in history to win 3 major international tournaments consecutively.
FIFA World Cup 2014
Who wouldn’t prefer to put their bet on a team having players like Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Fernando Torres to go all the way again and win the World Cup 2014, especially with the addition of a new in-form no. 9 Diego Costa? But debacle, disaster, dishonor are the adjectives that could be used to give a rundown of that team. Spain, much to their chagrin, suffered a defeat of 1-5 in the hands of Netherlands. Spain same as Italy (1950), Brazil (1966), France (2002) and Italy (2010) as reigning World Cup champions followed the similar path and were eliminated from the tournament in the group stages. Del Bosque still believed he could turn things around in the upcoming tourneys but with the departure of maestros like Xavi, Xabi Alonso, and David Villa it seemed far-fetched.
UEFA Euro 2016
Finally, the time arrived for Spain to defend their European Championship. Much to everyone's surprise, the team Spain defeated and dominated to win the title in 2012, took their revenge sending European champions back home providing Spain with warning bells emitting a clear resonant sound. Azzurri subdued La Roja to a score of 2-0. Giorgio Chiellini opened the score soon after which Graziano Pelle sealed the victory in the dying minutes of the match.
So this is it? Spain’s golden era comes to an end? The answer that would come floating from everyone’s mouth would be ‘Yes’. The termination of an unprecedented era of supremacy ensued. It was so captivating and effective that not only did Spain bag such success during its period but also Barcelona went on to overshadow Real Madrid, winning La Liga, UCL, Club World Cup and what not. In all likelihood, for the first time since Arrigo Sacchi's Milan (which was almost two decades ago), there was a new philosophy about. Thanks to Pep Guardiola and Barcelona. Yes, we are talking about tiki-taka. Considering the upswing of Tiki Taka, some other calculated strategic technique was bound to rise one time or the other. Which ultimately turned out to be hardcore defensive rigidity and rapid counter-attacks against possession in recent times. Del Bosque, who should have been cunning enough to retire right after World Cup 2014, is going to officially announce his departure after this Euro disappointment. And for Spain to hope that they would achieve something in the forthcoming years, they need an invulnerable defense, indefatigable runners, and persistent hard work. None of those boxes have been ticked. Now that Del Bosque era is over, Spain needs to find a quality replacement which would come as a tough job owing to the fact that most of the big names are currently occupied.
Spain’s dominance in the world of football had been remarkable. The retirement of Xavi left a void so large that it cannot be fulfilled. Iniesta in Euro 16 proved that he still is nothing less than a virtuoso but was most often was found on his own with no one to support especially from the other two consistent midfielders (alongside Iniesta) David Silva and Cesc Fabregas, who often struggled to find agility and the momentum. What lacked up front was a duo like Villa and Torres. Casillas showed glimpses of weakness since Spain’s last major triumph. For which Vincent Del Bosque put his faith in De Gea, who is currently known to be one of the best keepers of Europe, but still Spain suffered.
What would happen to Spain National Football team now? Is Spain done for? Only time can answer that. Spain’s collapse was inevitable. And this more or less is a part of football. No team can stay on top for long no matter what playing style and tactics they employ. And at times it’s just that one player of a team that makes a whole lot of difference and Spain on their part were lucky enough to have quite a number of top-tier players for which Spain went undefeated for 35 matches between 2006 and 2009 and also became the only team in history to win two consecutive continental championships (Euro 2008 and 2012) on either side of a World Cup (2010). Spain became eminent during Vincent Del Bosque’s reign. Despite the current Spain team being a sheer disappointment, it can’t belittle the reverence and take away the trophies from the cabinet that the legendary generation earned. We express our gratitude and appreciation to Del Bosque and Spain national team for the elegant and beautiful football that they provided us with. It’s high time Spain adapted themselves to the changed football and burgeon thereby with proper guidance and supervision.