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Who Says Spain are Finished?

29th July 2013

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In the aftermath of Brazil’s comprehensive defeat of World and European champions Spain in the Confederations Cup Final considerable footballing discourse has been devoted to the two countries’ futures ahead of next summer’s showpiece. Are we witnessing the decline of Spain’s reign?

To those proclaiming that Spain will fail to make an impact in Brazil 2014, I invite you to take a look at the Spanish bench from recent games and some important stats. Reina, Azpilicueta, Cazorla, Fabregas, Navas, Villa; these are players who would walk into decent sides all over the world. Even ‘third choice’ stars aren’t too shabby either.

Now the stats. Since winning the first of three trophies at Euro 2008, this generation of Spanish players have played 77 games, winning 63 (or 82%) of them. In footballing terms, that’s as good as it gets. During the 2004-08 tenure of manager Luis Aragones Spain won 71% of their matches, a highly commendable return. Prior to their recent defeat at the hands of Brazil, Spain had not lost a competitive fixture since the group stages of the 2010 World Cup. Like any successful side, Spanish teams over this period have been built on a solid defence; they did not concede a single goal in the knockout stages of any of their three victorious campaigns.

Every great era in sport eventually comes to an end and Spain have been, for the past five to six years, the number one side in international football. A number of pivotal players are now in their thirties and others have struggled with injuries and loss of form. Being at the top for a sustained period is hard as other teams are constantly looking for ways to counter winning styles of play; one only has to recall Bayern Munich’s rout of Barcelona over two legs in the Champions League – a team containing many national stars and who play in a similar fashion to Spain. However on the issue of future squad adjustments and transitions, Spanish fans have reason to be optimistic. The country’s Under 21s have won back-to-back European titles and other underage counterparts have enjoyed success in similar competitions, ensuring that the senior team is provided with a conveyor-belt of talent for many years to come. For all the reasons listed here it would be premature to mark the passing of an era on the back of a single game or the resounding elimination of Spain’s most prestigious club sides in Europe last season. Come Brazil 2014 they will still be one of the sides to beat and one would expect them to be amongst the semi-finalists in the competition.

The mauling in the Maracana might be the spur the team needs to move forward.

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