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The sun has set in Flanders

AS AS 14/06/2014 Alfredo Relaño

As I write the Dutch players are taking their lap of honour around the neat Fonte Nova stadium. They know what they’ve just achieved, routing the side that’s dominated world football for the past six years. The entire second half was quite extraordinary, with the Netherlands running free, full of speed and vigour, and backed up by a great strategy. Facing that, Spain were all over the shop, and they now face an incredibly tough immediate future. The best case scenario would see them face Brazil in the quarter-finals, and we saw against Croatia how the referees are protecting the home nation.

And all this after Spain started brightly, dominating the play (though making few chances), with the Netherlands showing little ambition. Robben had a good chance, well saved by Casillas, but not much more. With half-time coming up Silva just missed a chance to make it 2-0, after a glorious pass from Iniesta. And straight after, Blind crossed and Van Persie headed cleanly home having beaten Sergio Ramos. A set-back, nothing more, we thought. But it was something more. The confidence went from one side to the other and led to an extraordinary second half, terrible for us. It was an absolute train-wreck for Spain.

Every decent side can lose, but the way Spain fell apart was appalling. It had the feeling of the end of an era. That this glorious generation have nothing left to give. They lacked energy and speed, in addition to clear tactical inferiority. The first black night for this unrivalled team, to whom we’ll always be grateful. Now we’ll see if they can come back, if they still have the strength and faith to deal with the coming storm: criticism, doubts and Chile. A Chile side who now see us in a different light. Not to mention the fact that a three way tie will see us on the plane home.

Note: The title of this article references a 1910 theatrical work by Spanish writer Eduardo Marquina, which deals with the defeat of Spain in the Dutch War of Independence (1568-1648). The war saw the Netherlands rebel against Spanish rule and ultimately win independence from the Spanish Empire. The work though “is designed to show that a precious and unique Spanish spirit still survives, even though the political empire founded on this ideal has been destroyed” (From the Reader’s Encyclopaedia of World Drama)

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