SALVADOR, BRAZIL—A star on the shirt. Six years in paradise. A very bad defeat. Balance.
That is the message from the Spain changing room and I totally subscribe to it. Even though there is no chance in hell they will do well in this World Cup. Even so, this team (remember, 16 out of 23 were in South Africa) has won enough that we should trust them to come back from the humiliation.
But it will be a swan song. It might take them to the quarter-finals or so, but changes will take place as everybody predicts.
But what changes? The superficial thinkers would mention the need for a Plan B or a new style. That is poor thinking. Not only has the passing (and high pressure, running in behind defences from wide positions and many other things we have lost) taken us where we are, but everybody involved in the squad thinks it should continue.
Does the style have to evolve? Of course. But when people talk about changing style they mean being more direct, in the same way that Brazil moved from the beautiful game to the effective one that we see now.
You should hear what most people I have spoken to in Brazil think of the Scolari style—it will only be applauded if they keep winning. They don’t feel represented by it. They treat the Spain squad like their own. Most of us do. It will not change. I am sure it will make them win again, but not on in Brazil.
What went wrong? So many things. When one has a belly full of success, the first thing that stops is running with intensity. Yes, the team runs, but they lack a collective and aggressive wish to recover the ball.
As coach Vicente del Bosque warned, and I have written here before, the eyes of the players have lost their fire. Evidently that is the case. But if you are del Bosque, will you have taken with you those 16 players who won the World Cup four years ago? I think I would have.
Why? It is a lesson in life—you took me here, I will die with you. Football suffers when those kinds of decisions are made. But so what? Del Bosque was giving the 2010 World Cup winners the chance of trying again in Brazil. Of course he did. Deservedly.
And they are proud people—the silence after the Switzerland defeat has been replaced by a conversation that took place in the changing room of the stadium where the main players and the coach spoke. "Stop looking around for excuses. Look into yourself." Another lesson in life.
Many other things went wrong and Holland were superb. But we will talk more about it in the next blog.
Quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.