X-ray of Spain’s failure in Qatar

Was Spain really world champion? Was it an accident? Or was it a coincidence? It was, without a doubt, an exception. The national team’s journey through the biggest football tournament, with the new confirmatory chapter of Qatar, elevates the 2010 title to the category of wonderful rarity. And a privilege, of course. It’s time for the umpteenth catharsis in the selection. The sum of the disappointments of the 21st century leads to an inexorable conclusion: failure.

A reflection with Luis Enrique

Luis Enrique’s project ends, which has lasted four years with the tragic parentheses of the death of his daughter. The coach will say (he has already decided) if he ends the cycle with the World Cup farewell or next summer with the League of Nations, in which Spain is runner-up and again opts for the title by qualifying for the final four .

The results, as always, have weakened the manager, who cannot sustain the goodness of his football idea, with only one win in four games in this tournament. Luis Enrique has made a flag of his model of play with a fanatical conviction that, at the time of defeat, turns against him.

Sitting in the press room of the Ciutat de l’Educación stadium, he assured that he would remain at the head of the selection for the rest of his life. A way to buy time before responding to Luis Rubiales’ offer. The president listens to his surroundings. The position has many applicants. The first is Marcelino García, former coach of Athletic and Valencia among others. Not surprisingly, the squad has a future.

A model that is questioned

It usually happens. To Luis Enrique or any coach. Defending a style based on combinatory play runs into those detractors who still tout fury and caste as a guide to approaching matches. Nostalgia for an approach that never reported success.

Luis Enrique’s proposal, added to his strong personality, more inclined to discussion than proximity, has earned him the obvious animosity of various media, not the fans, which he has attracted for himself with the spontaneity of his interventions in Twicht. This beneficial image campaign does not slow down the barrage of criticism for the management of the team. From the call-up of some footballers to the management of the last game. “The players have fulfilled my game plan one hundred percent”, he assured, freeing them from the responsibility of the elimination, and assuming it entirely.

Spain left Russia after going down on penalties to the hosts and leave Qatar after succumbing from the same spot to Morocco, with no apology or mitigation possible. Spain failed completely because they didn’t know how to tackle such a closed defense, because they didn’t find tactical alternatives, because they didn’t succeed in the chances they had, because they made more than a thousand passes.

A five-game winning streak

It can all be attributed to Luis Enrique, who did admit his mistake in giving Pablo Sarabia in so late to kick a penalty. It could have been a stroke of genius if the left-footed forward’s right-footed shot hadn’t hit the post at the last chance. But Sarabia’s penalty decision, again on the post, put him on the alert, when he relieved Nico Williams, who had come on as a substitute.

All that was needed was for the coach to allude to the thousand penalties thrown that he had asked his players for the comment to hit him like a boomerang with the three errors of Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets.

Fernando Hierro’s Spain, in front of defensive Russia as was Morocco, stood in the shootout. Fateful, as always. Koke and Iago Aspas failed that day, two emblems of Luis Enrique’s alleged outlaws. Spain have only won one shootout in five starts: Ireland in 2002. They lost to Belgium (1986), South Korea (2002), Russia (2018) and Morocco (2022).

The end of an era

Busquets, the captain, was the third striker to fail of the first three appointed by Luis Enrique. The other two, requested by volunteers, did not even kick. Made captain for being the most veteran, the Barça midfielder is the last, the only one, who can testify that Spain was world champion.

Irreplaceable since then, and at the age of 34, six months from the end of his contract with Barça, he is also on the way out of the national team. It remains to be seen if he will take the step to cross it. Alba (33) is a similar case of the veteran who is taken for granted. But they are not similar cases, such as Azpilicueta (32), Koke (30) or Morata (30), less linked to Luis Enrique than the two Barça footballers.

The new batch is ready

It’s up to you to continue or give up. And to those of the new coach and his new idea, if Luis Enrique resigns after relaxing with his people and his dogs, as he said when saying goodbye in the press room. He would bet on the continuity of both of them, and of almost the entire squad, convinced of the footballing quality of all of them and beyond the personal affinity he feels with them.

Ansu Fati, Gavi, Pedri, Balde, even without crossing the 20-year-old barrier, all starters at Barça, augur a great future, along with most of the team’s components. The challenge perhaps came too soon. They need time. They are all younger than the youngest member of the South African squad. It was Busquets, he was 21 years old and he was surrounded by a group of experts who had completed the first sextet ever won by a club.



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