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10 Things Spain Learned from 2014 World Cup

Rik SharmaFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2014

10 Things Spain Learned from 2014 World Cup

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    Spain finished with a win.
    Spain finished with a win.Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    Spain's disastrous World Cup campaign at least ended with a win against Australia.

    It was the start of the next era in Spanish international football, and there are several lessons they can take with them from Brazil.

    Here we look at 10 important topics for the manager, either Vicente del Bosque or his successor, to note. 

Always Keep Things Fresh

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    Xavi is fantastic but physically declining.
    Xavi is fantastic but physically declining.Christophe Ena/Associated Press

    If Spain ever get in a position of such dominance again, then let's hope they learned from their experience this time around.

    The team that won Euro 2008 and 2012 plus the 2010 World Cup was not able to go the whole hog and secure a fourth-running major tournament.

    Vicente del Bosque should have made changes instead of putting in the same old faces.

    The likes of Xavi had been struggling to punch his weight in La Liga against mediocre sides, so how was he going to fare against the Netherlands and Chile?

Make Sure the Team Know Their Roles

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    Diego Costa looked a little lost up top.
    Diego Costa looked a little lost up top.Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

    Playing Diego Costa in this tournament was something of a gamble by the manager.

    Vicente del Bosque had only played the former Brazilian, now Spanish striker in a couple of friendlies before the tournament.

    It meant that Costa looked out of sync with his team-mates, rarely threatening over the two matches he started.

    He's used to playing in a counter-attacking system, not in a possession-based one like Spain's.

    While more practice wouldn't necessarily make perfect, it would definitely have made "improvement."

Goodbye to the Old Guard

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    David Villa was subbed off.
    David Villa was subbed off.Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    If players like Xavi and David Villa no longer deem themselves able to play at the top level, with moves to Qatar and Australia imminent, then why should they be selected for a World Cup?

    Villa scored a brilliant backheel against Australia in the final game, likely his last ever on the international stage, but it doesn't justify his selection.

    Despite his impressive performance, you have to consider he was playing in a dead rubber against the weakest team in the group.

    The Netherlands and Chile would have been far more vigilant at the back.

    Villa is a legend, and at least he could go out with a goal.

    It's more of a shame that Xavi was injured and could not feature in the last group game.

    He may have already made his final Spain appearance.

Time to Bring Through a New Generation

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    Koke is the future.
    Koke is the future.Michael Sohn/Associated Press

    In Koke, Ander Herrera, Ander Iturraspe and Thiago Alcantara, Spain have four brilliant central midfielders 25 years old or younger.

    Asier Illarramendi is another who could step up and play a bigger part, just like his Real Madrid team-mate Isco.

    The future is bright for Spain, as long as they start preparing for it now.

Is Del Bosque Losing the Plot?

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    Del Bosque made some curious calls.
    Del Bosque made some curious calls.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Vicente del Bosque is obviously a good manager, but there are signs he's not quite right.

    Substituting David Villa, then claiming he was unaware that it was the Spaniard's last game for La Roja is a good example.

    The striker is going to Australia and then New York, effectively ending his own international career.

    He was left in tears after his early withdrawal in Spain's final group game.

    Del Bosque said after, per Sport: "He certainly seemed very annoyed. He said it was his last game, but I didn't know that. I'm sure he was upset. All I was thinking about is that it was time to kill off the game and we did that."

    There was also the incident where he got on the wrong team's coach after the game, but it would be churlish to hold that against him.

Players Must Play at Club Level

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    Casillas had a terrible tournament.
    Casillas had a terrible tournament.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Things could have been so different if David De Gea had started in goal for Spain instead of Iker Casillas.

    Coming off the back of a fine season for Manchester United, the keeper was ready for the No. 1 jersey.

    But Vicente del Bosque was loyal to Casillas, even though he had only played in the cups for Real Madrid, bar two La Liga games.

    His mistake in the Champions League final should have been a warning sign.

    But Del Bosque kept his man and was punished for it against Holland and Chile, with costly errors.

Tiki-Taka Is Not Dead

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    Iniesta pulled his weight.
    Iniesta pulled his weight.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Playing tiki-taka can still win trophies, it's just that this Spain side weren't good enough to play it.

    Maybe it was a mental thing, perhaps they were too confident. They lacked energy in the middle and strength at the back.

    It doesn't mean the style is obsolete. Sure, it could do with a few changes, tweaks here and there.

    Over time all football tactics get worked out and need to be modified.

    But with the right players, it can thrive again. And as we've seen, Spain have plenty of the right players coming through.

    And one of the kings of it, Andres Iniesta, was as good as ever.

Preparation Is Key

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    Training was damp and grisly.
    Training was damp and grisly.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    Graham Hunter makes a series of good points in an article for the Daily Mail about Spain's chosen base.

    He says that the players couldn't really have time off in Curitiba to spend exploring with their wives and children.

    The army were on the streets, and crime and protests plagued the area. It was also cold, wet and "grisly."

    That, contrasted with the heat of playing in Salvador and the temperature in Rio, would have been far from ideal.

Poor PR Decision

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    Spain avoided their fans.
    Spain avoided their fans.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    There has been a good mix of praise and criticism from the Spanish press.

    While the tournament itself was an extreme disappointment, the squad which has given the country so much joy in the last six years was deservedly hailed.

    So it was disappointing that when Spain's players arrived back in Madrid on Tuesday, they chose to sneak out of the airport.

    Around 250 fans had turned up to greet them, carrying messages of support, per AS.

    It would have been nice for the players to pass by the fans.

Life Goes on

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    Will it be De Gea between the sticks?
    Will it be De Gea between the sticks?Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

    In September, the qualification campaign for Euro 2016 starts.

    La Roja take on Macedonia in Valencia on September 8.

    It is the perfect time to start making the changes that need to take place.

    Del Bosque, or whoever is in charge, will probably make a few ripples with the first squad selected.

    Whoever is picked, it will be intriguing and a brave new world. The king is dead, long live the king. 

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