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World Cup 2018: Even with 1100 passes in 120 minutes, Spain fails to qualify

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Feature
623   //    02 Jul 2018, 17:58 IST

Spain v Russia: Round of 16 - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Spain players looking distraught after losing to Russia

Move it to the left, left, left…..Move it to the right, right, right!

As much as I want to refer the “crowd control” song as a ‘humorous’ reference to Spain’s performance, the ‘humour’ does little good to overshadow the sad reality that unfolded yesterday. Spain with 80%(!) possession could not put a dent on a resilient Russian side who were stern throughout the majority of the game (marking the own goal as an exception).

Spain looked sharp when they took the field. To start things off, Spain relied characteristically on their passing game with the defenders moving up the centre line with Isco and David Silva trying their best to pass the ball beyond the Russian defence to an obscure Diego Costa. The absence of Costa’s coverage throughout the game has to be credited the Russian back line.

The halftime ended at 1-1, thanks to a howler by Pique and one could sense Spain would come up with a more attacking performance in the next 45. By the first ten minutes of the second half, it was evident that Russia wasn't going to create chances.

Spain was leading the charge and was relying heavily on their passing game which was their success formula at the African World Cup and the 2012 Euro.

But this time it felt like they lacked the intent.

Apart from Isco trying his one-twos, none of the Spanish players looked to break through the Russian defence. Iniesta, after being subbed on offered one or two flashes of effort but overall, they were doomed. It looked evident that they kept the ball and waited for Russia to make a mistake which never happened.

Costa was blocked, Ascensio looked to be forever caught in a search for space. Koke and Busquets intended to pass the ball back to the defence or to the wings more than anything and the process repeated. Spain was looking for that one point of mistake from Russia and that point of magic never happened. Pass after pass with no end result.

Spain completed a total of over 1100(a new World-cup record) passes to Russia’s 290. At one point the game became dull and the lack of chances added to the frustration. By the time the game moved into extra time, it was clear that Russia was trying to take the game to the penalties and Spain could do little.

Two saves from Akinfeev in the shootout and game over.

Spain have been knocked out by the hosts. A rather depressing end for Iniesta and other senior players who might just have played their last World Cup.

Spain also didn’t look to be in command in the group stages. They relied heavily on their philosophy but the execution now seemed far from perfect.

Was the change of coach by the top brass fair enough? This remains a question to be debated.

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