With the flip of a switch, the greatest international side ever has become old. Rarely does such an ugly undressing happen in public. I, along with everyone else, believed Spain had a little bit more in them. If they were going to fall off the international stage, it would be slowly. But that was all proven wrong today. Spain was truly terrible today. It is not often that you can say that about Iker Casilllas, Xavi and Gerard Pique, but today, they were not among the world’s best, losing 5-1 to Netherlands.
Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie were magnificent for Netherlands. They looked young again. And alongside them, the real youngsters looked like seasoned veterans, especially Daley Blind. The defense held well, even in the midfield, and Louis Van Gaal’s formation looked ingenious. It is always dangerous to discount a side who were unbeaten in qualifying, but somehow the Dutch have been overlooked. Using that as motivation, they silenced all their critics today and enacted sweet revenge on the Spaniards.
But the story won’t be so much about the Dutch as it will be about the Spaniards. The age old dilemma about how much loyalty should be shown to older players who have proven themselves is now again at the forefront. Vicente Del Bosque will be forced to answer many questions about why he continues to utilize Iker Casillas and Xavi, even as their clubs have begun to faze them out. Yes, they may be the two best Spanish players ever, but they aren’t among this current squad’s best 11. Loyalty is admirable. But eventually in sports, too much loyalty will lead to a result like this. And where does Spain go from here?
There have to be changes in the side for their next match against Chile. I would like to see David De Gea come in for Casillas – that choice would seem the most obvious change to make. But I think players like Javi Martinez and Koke could provide much needed life to this side. Whether Martinez plays in central defense or in the midfield doesn’t matter as much as simply getting his young talent into the side. I would also imagine Cesc Fabregas will start as a false 9, coming in for the likely to be suspended Diego Costa. And lastly, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata should get a run out at some point. It might seem harsh to leave out the long-serving players after just one loss, but if this isn’t a sign that changes are necessary, I don’t know what is.
There is still a way back for Spain, but they will only improve if they are wiling to let go of their past success and make the tough decisions to leave veterans out. The usual 11 have played more games over the last few years than any other players in the world for club and country. Between that fact and the aging roster, it is clear that they must involve fresh legs and fresh minds. A departure from the Spain we have come to know might be the only way to save this campaign.
What were your thoughts on the match? How can Spain come back from this? Please comment.