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'Maracanazo' and bye bye World Cup Brazil

AS AS 19/06/2014 Juanma Trueba

As endings go, this was a particularly horrible one - but we knew that it had to come some day. Nevertheless, we could never have imagined it would be so pitiful and the Spain side so unrecognisable and ordinary-looking. So farewell World Cup; Spain are eliminated and to add insult to injury, have the humiliation of playing out their last game at the tournament on Monday against Australia, and have the dubious honour of becoming the first two teams to be already on their way back home.

© Proporcionado por AS

Whatever post-match analysis will be seen as treacherous, I’d already warned so before tonight’s game kicked off and although a bloody dissection of what went wrong is tempting, there’s no a great deal of room next to the hospital bed for that. By stepping back, maybe we can understand it all a little better. It’s not a big secret: Spain’s decline is directly related to the decline of Barcelona. It’s no coincidence that both team’s reign has lasted six years – nor that their supremacy has been curtailed at more or less the same time. Last season was the first in which Barça ended empty-handed in exactly six years. So in a sense, it was kind of to be expected.

Aside from that evidence, the most obvious conclusion is that one thing didn’t go wrong at this World Cup – a lot of things went wrong and with all likelihood, the seeds of those problems weren’t sown in Brazil but several months back. That’s the only way to explain such a collective short-circuit which doesn’t only concern Barça’s Spanish international players. One way or another we have been breaking the rules and committing imperceptible mistakes – it was catalogue of errors which accumulated to a point when they became insurmountable. First, as the reigning world champions, we insisted on bringing Diego Costa on board – we spent too much energy and far too much time on that; and it may also have upset the harmony within the squad. At the time, we imagined that Costa’s incorporation would be the finishing touch to the team’s renovation – it would make Spain more versatile, with a Plan A and a Plan B. We returned to become imprudent: we ignored the advice from the Football League, accepted obscene bonuses, elected the coldest place in Brazil as our base for the tournament and as if that wasn’t bad enough, we even changed the colour of our shorts.

That wasn’t all. In the days running up to the finals, Villa announced he would be joining New York City FC and later that week, rumours emerged that Xavi would spend next season in Qatar. It begs the question, is it really a good idea to be counting on players who are one step away from retiring?

The tragic part of all this is that there was no other solution – how do you go about dismantling the team which made us champions of Europe and the world? Even the most ruthless critics wouldn’t dare do so. We had to continue with those players right up until the bitter end and that end arrived tonight. It’s just a shame that Spain couldn’t have gone out in a blaze of glory - soaring off the precipice like Thelma and Louise.

Tonight’s game against Chile was a continuation of the opening game against Holland. We committed the sin of believing that such a heavy defeat would somehow have a stimulating effect. Now we know that we not only lost our guardian angel but our self-confidence with it. And just like in the opening game, it wasn’t just one player who wasn’t up to the required level, but several – Casillas, Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xabi Alonso, Busquets, Silva...

Like last year in the Confederations Cup final, we had already lost the game when the national anthems started; 40 thousand Chileans belted out their hymn at the top of their lungs to reclaim their status as ‘La Roja’ – which is now theirs. As a consequence, we were dead men walking from kick-off as illustrated by the first ball which bobbed dangerously just past Casillas’ post and the similar threat which followed.

It wasn’t the time or the moment. Xabi Alonso could have put Spain ahead but his strike struck Bravo’s arm. Soon after Chile scored with a move which now haunts us like a nightmare, leaving us with no place to escape or hide. Xabi lost the ball, Alexis advanced, played in Aránguiz who squared to Vargas to slot in from the edge of the six yard box. We were close – but arrived late for the date.

Chile’s second goal put us in that silent room where they take boxers who have been knocked out cold. This time there was a hint of bad luck about the goal – Aránguiz struck the ball strangely, almost toe-poking it and sending it swerving outwards but inside the post. It was the killer punch but Casillas was at fault too.

And the bad news was that after that, there was hardly a response. Koke replaced Xabi at the start of the second half but Spain still lacked soul. Busquets could have pulled a goal back on 52 minutes which might have rekindled Spain’s spirits. Or maybe it would have given us false hope that our fortunes might change.

Goodbye World Cup, goodbye Spain. It was nice while it lasted, those magical six years. But is anyone is thinking about removing those flags from their balconies, I will say only this: now is the time to keep them there.

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