Before the ‘End of an Era’ talks begin, let me make one thing clear: Spain are going absolutely nowhere. This team still possesses some of the world’s finest players, who have won everything there is to win and have both the experience and the ability to keep winning. Their bench strength is scary, and their youth teams world-beaters. In Vicente Del Bosque they have a manager who has won it all in the game and they should still be co-favorites to leave the Maracana next July a little happier than this summer. But clearly, changes are required to ensure their extraordinary success run isn’t halted.
Quite obviously, after Spain’s and Barcelona’s hammerings this season, this style of tiki-taka is outdated. This means it requires evolution, something Bayern Munich have shown by mixing possession football with physicality and aerial prowess. Spain have struggled on set-pieces at this tournament, with Iker Casillas practically proving Jose Mourinho right, and their strikers let them down miserably, especially Fernando Torres, who has proven that away from substandard Europa League teams, or Tahiti, he is no longer good enough, while Roberto Soldado will view this competition as a missed opportunity. The team needs to move forward quicker, and need a more direct option and lack physicality, easily bullied by Brazil and Italy. The defense fell apart in the final especially Álvaro Arbeloa. After this defeat, it’s time for Del Bosque to make changes.
Luckily, he’s got a pretty damn good bench to fall back on. In Jesus Navas, he has a genuine winger, capable of stretching play and attacking quickly with precision. He impressed at the Cup coming off the bench, and may warrant a starting role on the right, with Pedro on the left offering more width, allowing Spain to stretch play and play through-balls over the defense. Also, it’s time they rested Xavi and Iniesta, on whom the last 5 years have taken an enormous toll. Del Bosque must realize his stars are carrying niggles and fatigue (as are Busquets, Ramos, Pique and others). In David Silva, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla and Javi Martinez he has some of the best players in the world waiting to play for him. Mata and Martinez were the best in the world in their position, and surely deserve more playing time. Del Bosque should rotate his team more over the next 12 months, allowing his main stars to avoid long tiring trips around the world. He must also integrate Cesar Azpillicueta at right back after Arbeloa’s poor display in the final and his weakness on the ball. What to do with the returning Xabi Alonso is another important question. Xavi will retire after the World Cup, and this will be his farewell tournament, while the last major tournament this generation play. Maybe Del Bosque can look to the future. Thiago Alacantara will no doubt get more game time next season, and the midfielder has the quality to help out the national team, as does new Real Madrid signing Isco and Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea. De Gea will no doubt succeed Iker Casillas as no 1, and has developed his overall game magnificently this season. Already one hell of a shot-stopper, he has become more commanding in the box and stronger in the air, things Saint Iker is weak at. I’m not suggesting Del Bosque dispose of his magnificent captain, but he must ensure he keeps his options open in case Casillas form continues to slide. Diego Lopez, too, is an impressive option in goal, while Del Bosque has some time to see where his forwards will be playing next season and how they adapt before making a pick.
Spain’s current generation are done. Del Bosque and Xavi will quit after the World Cup, and this team must start looking ahead. I don’t believe every one of my ideas should come through as there is a thing such as too many changes, but it’s time to realize that Spain must make changes to the shape of the team, as it’s getting outdated. It needs more physicality, set-piece organization, and directness to match the Selecao or Germany. In Javi Martinez Del Bosque has a player who is powerful and brilliant in the air, while in Navas he has a player to provide directness and width. Cesc Fabregas has disappointed of late and should be dropped. He can also consider Azpillicueta at right-back, and if, only if, Casillas’ continues his recent downward trend, he should consider David de Gea or Diego Lopez, though that one is far, far off. Spain have been the best, but when you’re at the top, you cannot stay still. It was a trick mastered by Sir Alex Ferguson, who would constantly reinvigorate the team. It’s now time to see if Del Bosque is willing to be brave and make the necessary changes to his team.