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How do I begin to explain why Brazil, and not Spain, top the power rankings ahead of this Confederations Cup? The Spaniards are, after all, the World and European champions; the first team to win three back-to-back major international tournaments; and the world’s genuine, dominant force in football—as demonstrated in the 4-0 pulverisation of Italy in the Euro 2012 final.
I think, to sum up their conundrum, while the good have become great, the great have gone backwards.
The likes of Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, David Silva and Javier Martinez have grown immeasurably as footballers over the last few years, and are now so accomplished that they would surely command a spot in almost any other national side—but their own.
Similarly, full-backs Cesar Azpilicueta and Nacho Monreal have matured enormously, and look primed to force their way into the narrative of this golden generation.
However, while the majority have become stronger, many of the side’s elite appear to have entered a decline which—if not terminal, is certainly very worrying.
Carles Puyol’s injuries and age mean that he has all but abdicated his guaranteed spot in the heart of the defence for Spain and Barcelona. Xavi Hernandez—whilst still incredibly reliable—has endured a disappointing campaign with his club side.
Problems still continue up front, where both Fernando Torres and David Villa have fallen far from their best. And bearing this in mind, it is baffling that—with 25 goals in 36 La Liga games this season—Alvaro Negredo has been completely overlooked.
The absence of Xabi Alonso is another complication that Spain will need to contend with this summer.