Spain Face An Early World Cup Final

After the degradation suffered against the Netherlands on Friday, Spain must now pick themselves up and beat Chile. A World Cup final arrives three weeks early...

Last Updated: 18/06/14 at 10:02 Post Comment

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Well, what a pickle Spain have found themselves in. True, it is a pickle Vicente Del Bosque's side have sampled before, but not one vaguely close to representing the calamitous defeat to the Netherlands. That loss was the size of a hatchback compared to the mere nibbling of gherkins of the past.

Despite being World Cup and European Championship holders and all the greatness that these accolades quite rightly entail, the Spanish have never exactly cruised to their triumphs. Extra time victories and squeaky penalty shoot-outs have been the norm over the past six years.

Of course, the previous World Cup campaign in South Africa also began with a defeat to Switzerland, but the circumstances four years ago were quite different. That was one of those nights when all the hustle and bustle of one side ended up with nowt to show for it, whilst the opposition got lucky with just one chance. In the first match of this particular World Cup, Spain were completely swept aside.

La Furia Roja have a chance to make up some ground and sooth a few brows in the homeland against Chile on Wednesday, but it is not exactly clear what is going to take place at Maracana. Last Friday's 5-1 drubbing to the Dutch may have been one of those spooky affairs where everything that could go wrong went pear-shaped for the World Champions - the kind of loss that affects the fanciest of club teams from time to time. Perhaps it was one of those lunar eclipse style moments every six years when the Netherlands howl at the stars and reach football perfection, and any opponent would have been smeared across the windscreen of destiny.

More worryingly for Spain, the match was possibly a ground-breaking affair akin to the Bayern Munich dismantling of Barcelona in last season's Champions League, which was seen to be the beginning of the end of Tiki Taka, with a more rumbustious style to take its place. That was certainly the immediate reaction of the Spanish press on Saturday. The front cover of Marca was clad in black with the letters 'FIX THIS!' blasted out for all to read. It was a desperate call with few answers to the problems that mainly afflicted Spain at the back. 'A historic catastrophe,' fretted the paper.

'Saint Iker' was the key blame point, testing the loyalty and love in Spain towards the country's captain who lifted the last World Cup and won the trophy with a save against Arjen Robben. "The worst match of my life," was the stark admission of the Real Madrid man, whose troubles for his club have now spread to the national team. Xavi Hernández, another player whose powers are also being questioned, admitted that the loss was "the hardest defeat of my sporting career".

The competence of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué at the back were also called into question, with the Barcelona stopper especially under the cosh after wobbling form for Barça for the past 18 months.

Once the wound-licking was over, though, it was time for Spain to lift itself up again, with Marca calling for the "the pride of the wounded champion" to respond to Friday's humiliation. Indeed, even Del Bosque has come out swinging with the uncharacteristically tough talk that "neither are we the saviours of the homeland and nor have we p**sed on the flag".

The Spain coach also admitted that some changes in personnel would take place. The chattering classes see Piqué moving to the bench with Javi Martínez slotting in alongside Sergio Ramos. A 4-1-4-1 option might be called upon with Spain looking to turn back the years by smothering Chile in the South American's own third. Fernando Torres might even be the striker to lead the line with Diego Costa's temperament in bullish affairs always going to be called into question.

The Spanish squad is stuffed to bursting point with champions of cups and leagues and deserve a second chance to prove that Friday was just a bad day at the office. There is bouncebackability in the DNA of this team. Spain will be hoping that this is on show as the country faces a World Cup final a good three weeks early.

Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter

Apparently I was more right than I thought lol
- badwolf

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