4 Things Spain Must Change Following Loss vs. Chile
Spain's glittering run at the pinnacle of international football came to an end on Wednesday, as the defending champions succumbed 2-0 to Chile to be bundled out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
After a 5-1 embarrassment at the hands of the Dutch in their opening game, it was widely expected that Vicente del Bosque's side would quickly recover against the Chileans to mark the Netherlands disaster as an aberration rather than a stark indication of decline.
Instead, La Roja's second humbling in six days made it clearly evident that changes must be made to this Spanish outfit in the coming months to prepare for their European Championship defence in 2016.
With an ageing squad and tactical approach that has shown signs of vulnerability, it feels like a time of generational change will enforce itself upon La Roja.
Across the following slides, we examine the four specific changes that need to occur.
Iker Casillas Must Be Replaced
It was a cruel ending for Iker Casillas at this World Cup in Brazil.
Despite being recognised among the finest goalkeepers of his generation, the veteran shot-stopper committed another glaring mistake against Chile, which came straight off the back of his gift to Robin van Persie last Friday.
If you factor in his error that almost cost Real Madrid the Champions League final in May, that's three dreadful blunders on the bounce for Casillas.
Consequently, Spain will need a new presence in goal if they are to recover at Euro 2016.
While hindsight is useful, Carlo Ancelotti had recognised the decline of Casillas all season, handing the league duties to Diego Lopez.
Low on game time and even lower on confidence, Casillas has proved to be an unfortunate liability to Spain in Brazil.
Athleticism in Midfield Is Desperately Needed
The midfield maestros that have guided Spain into the pantheon of world football will be forever remembered as some of the greatest technicians the World Cup has ever witnessed.
But in Brazil, the absence of athleticism residing in the legs of Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta has been alarmingly exposed.
Unable to effectively press without the ball across the 90 minutes, and, crucially, incapable of breaking through opposition lines in possession, La Roja's midfield has been savagely ambushed at this World Cup.
Certainly, it was telling that the youthful Koke exerted significantly more influence than his midfield counterparts when introduced from the substitutes' bench against Chile by Vicente del Bosque.
Therefore, it's critical that Spain inject the vitality of youth into that midfield across the coming 24 months.
Koke, along with Thiago Alcantara, Ander Iturraspe, Isco, Asier Illarramendi and even Javi Martinez should be getting ready to fill the void.
The Philosophy Needs Tinkering
Let's be clear: The principles of "tiki taka" aren't dead. Football—like all sports—is cyclical in its nature.
Remember when Spain and Barcelona began to triumph with their world-famous style? Remember the obituaries that were written then for the more direct approaches in the game? Remember teams around the world wanting to replicate the Spaniards?
It all comes and goes.
Quite simply, La Roja need to tinker with the recipe slightly to remain at the top right now.
Domestically across Europe, the methodology associated with Spain has shown a vulnerability from as early as 2012.
Since then, Barcelona's dominance has been on the wane, Bayern Munich's transition to a similar system has produced indifferent results, more robust outfits like Atletico Madrid have quickly risen—even English clubs have thrived with aggressive, direct and up-tempo mentalities.
Spain can indeed maintain their possession-based style. In fact, they're almost compelled to, given that the nation's players are developed at youth level with technical proficiency in mind.
But a different edge must be identified. A Plan B is needed.
Everything from the way they defend to the speed with which they construct attacks require slight adjustments—whether it be in personnel, the team's athletic capacity or otherwise—to overcome the tactics being used to orchestrate their demise in Brazil.
Either the Manager or His Selection Policy Needs to Change
Vicente del Bosque has never attempted to impose his own style on this Spanish outfit, instead allowing the qualities inherent in his squad to dictate the team's methods.
In that sense, La Roja's manager had no option but to deploy his team in the only tactical manner they're familiar with in Brazil.
However, that's precisely why Del Bosque must alter his selection policy.
Throughout his reign, the 63-year-old has placed an implicit trust in his trophy-winning stars. Regularly, the decorated manager has largely ignored domestic form and chosen to stick with those who remain familiar with the squad.
For Spain to recover from their embarrassment at this year's World Cup, that needs to change, Del Bosque needs to select the finest individuals available to him and trust that Spain's sheer depth in quality will prove decisive.
If he doesn't, La Roja will need a new leader.