Why Spain Got KO'd
June 20, 2014 8:05 AM   Subscribe

It's now been a day since we saw defending World Cup and Euro champions Spain lose to Chile, 2-0, a day since they were mathematically eliminated from the knockout stages, and a day since we witnessed the grisly end of an era. It was a profound moment in soccer and in soccer's history, and still, all I can think about is boxing.
posted by josher71 (57 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Three Lions are also becoming Italian supporters today so they don't get mathematically eliminated. Another titan possibly being knocked out at group.
posted by Talez at 8:11 AM on June 20, 2014


That was a good read. Also helped me focus on something other than England sucking. At least now I can enjoy the World Cup without wondering when we'll crash out in a fizzle.
posted by arcticseal at 8:12 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


As someone pointed out on Twitter, it'd be hilarious if a Spain team featuring Koke, Thiago Alcantara, and Isco in midfield won Euro 2016.
posted by asterix at 8:13 AM on June 20, 2014


Another titan possibly being knocked out at group.

A decentish team which had the bad luck to be drawn into the same group as a great team hungrily rebuilding itself (Italy), another decent to good team with some world class players which went much further in the last Worldcup than everybody thought possible (Uruguay) as well as a team that should've been there just to make up the numbers but turned out to hold their own against a team that supposed to beat them (Costa Rica).

Both the idea that England should of course qualify from the group stage and the idea that now it seems unlikely they will, some sort of special circumstances need to be found to explain this are a symptom of how overrated England is.

Spain is the surprise knockout because they won an European Cup, World Cup and another European Cup one after another, had therefore arguably been the best team in the world for the best part of a decade. When Italy and France were knocked out in the previous tournament, these had been WC winners/contenders not long before

England on the other hand has been striving for mediocricy for most of that time, not noticably better than a team like Poland, Portugal or Greece. Had they had a bit of better luck this game they could've qualified, but their luck was back so they likely don't.

That's all.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:25 AM on June 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Something I was listening to or reading recently suggested that part of the problem is that, as a manager of the defending champions, you become too loyal to the players that won you the trophy last time, and lean on them too much. As the article says, I think this is much more a case of Spain being too old rather than tiki taka being found out. They could have moved on from the players who were so good in 2010 or 2012, but they didn't because it's hard to break up a team that's been winning so much.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:30 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


FIFA World Rankings (risible as they are) before the event:

Uruguay 7th
Italy 9th
England 10th
Chile 14th

England could still just about squeak a "par" performance. Spain on the other hand were ranked 1st. There's an interesting piece about Spain linked over on SportsFilter.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2014


It wasn't age.

Tiki-taka doesn't dominate when you're playing paniagua. This world cup is the first FIFA tournament to use bio-passport screening.

Operation Puerto seized evidence that would implicate cyclists, tennis players, and football players alike but only the cyclists names were released and the evidence was destroyed. The doctor administering the doping has said "If I would talk, the Spanish football team would be stripped of the 2010 World Cup".
posted by cmfletcher at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


My bracket submission for the office pool, "Randomized Control," is the only one (of 16) that correctly predicted Spain's failure to emerge from the group stage. On the other hand, it also has Netherlands beating Côte d'Ivoire in the final.
posted by theodolite at 8:38 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just a random link to 37 reasons why Andrea Pirlo is the world’s greatest living human man, now that the English are developing a keen appreciation of all things Italian
posted by dhoe at 8:39 AM on June 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


The article doesn't mention it, but tiki-taka had been found out a couple of times before the World Cup already, by Mourinho's Inter Milan in the 2009/10 Champions League, then by Chelsea two seasons later.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:44 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's hard to break up a team that's been winning so much

But it is easy to study their patterns and break their code...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


This should not be surprising. The team had clearly used up their well of desire and hunger. In addition, the weakness of tiki taka foot ball had already been laid bare for all to see since last years Champions League. Who can forget what Bayern, playing fast counter attacking football, did to Barac over two legs of CL football last year. And more recently, we saw Real Madrid use fast counter attacking football to destroy a Munich side under Pep that had adopted the tiki taka style. It should be no surprise then that a Chile side playing counter-attacking football and an aggressive pressing scheme beat Spain.
posted by RedShrek at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2014


My bracket submission for the office pool, "Randomized Control," is the only one (of 16) that correctly predicted Spain's failure to emerge from the group stage. On the other hand, it also has Netherlands beating Côte d'Ivoire in the final.

So far my strategy of consistently betting against all sub-Saharan African teams in the office pool is paying off.

The African teams have some great individual players, but they just cannot seem to build a real team. I think this was best demonstrated by Cameroon, where the players refused to get on the plane to Brazil unless they got a better bonus. Another problem is that the best African players all go to Europe, leaving their home countries with weak leagues.
posted by sour cream at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2014


Another problem is that the best African players all go to Europe, leaving their home countries with weak leagues.

I don't follow. Does Uruguay have a strong league?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:57 AM on June 20, 2014


Uruguay has Luis Suarez.
posted by BeerFilter at 8:58 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


And he plays in Europe, yeah? And they're a good national team, yeah?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2014


Uruguay has Luis Suarez.

Who plays for... Liverpool... Awk-waaaaaaard!
posted by Talez at 9:05 AM on June 20, 2014


One of the more interesting parts of the book Soccernomics was the revelation that, at least using their forumulae, England does about as well as expected in most tournaments. The numbers say they should be a second tier team, and they are.
posted by cell divide at 9:14 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't follow. Does Uruguay have a strong league?

They had a pretty strong league from the 50's to the 70's, which is incidentally also the period when they had their strongest showings in the World Cup. So there does seem to be an overall correlation between league strength and WC performance, and I don't find that surprising.

Anyway, I don't know what the decisive reasons are for the poor performance of African teams at the World Cup. Maybe it's economic reasons. But whatever the case, a strategy of consistently shorting African teams is (so far) paying off. That's a fact, not a judgment.
posted by sour cream at 9:25 AM on June 20, 2014


I don't think any of you understand exactly what has happened to England in this World Cup.

Remember Euro 2008, the last World Cup, and Euro 2012 - Spain triumphed. And every English supporter thought to her or himself: Wow. Spain. What a team.

Then Satan himself appeared in a puff of smoke before the Board of the English FA, and said to them: "Gentlemen (and Heather Rabbatts), I will promise you this: at the next World Cup, England will play better than Spain, and will have better results in its matches than Spain. All I ask is that you give me now a single soul, pure and innocent, to carry off to Hell".

The FA neither tarried nor hesitated; they signed the proferred bargain in blood, and handed John Terry to Lucifer. The Devil laughed - "Ha ha!" said he. And then he twirled upon a blackened hoof, once, twice, and thri -- "Wait, wait a minute ... is this -- did you just give me John fucking Terry?"

And that is the story of how an ultimately unsatisfying contract was made between two parties of fairly equal bargaining power.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2014 [40 favorites]


Who plays for... Liverpool... Awk-waaaaaaard!

I keep remembering this randomly throughout the day and cackling madly.
posted by elizardbits at 10:06 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't tell me you're a ManU fan.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:22 AM on June 20, 2014


Spain's ouster is being widely heralded as the death of tiki-taka in favour of a more flowing counter attack style.

Interestingly, Real Madrid won the Champions League this year with that counter attacking style. Bayern Munich, Arsenal, and Barcelona have all had challenging seasons playing tiki-taka based possession, especially in Europe where you really see what you are made of. (Bayern's outstanding Bundesliga season notwithstanding) And Spain's failure to progress has put the nail in the coffin.

But with the exception of the tactical innovation of a back three with wing backs (being played by Chile and Costa Rica and Italy), innovation continues to be driven by Spanish football. After World Cup 2010 everyone adopted Spain's 4-2-3-1/4-3-3. After this one, I expect to see more 5-3-2 (wingbacks)/3-5-2 against the counter attack. The unit of five is moving back up the pitch from the back two ranks to the middle of the midfield.

I also expect to see more Real Madrid football played around the world by the top teams, and I expect that Spain will adopt to that style as well, as Real Madrid still contains a Spanish core of players, many of who are asked to play Barca football with their national side. In England this bodes well for teams like Liverpool and Tottenham to move in their ascendency and bodes poorly for Arsenal in particular. In the rest of Europe, I reckon Bayern Munich and Real will dominate and Atletico Madrid will continue to shine too. Barca will need retooling, and it will be interesting to see what they end up playing at the end of their transition period.

La Liga continues to be the tactical lab out of which most if the interesting experiments are coming.
posted by salishsea at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


England's stats on the game were pretty good relative to Uruguay. Some of it was luck, some the refereeing decisions, but that's just nature of the game. These days I think Rooney is overrated. I suspect Ferguson would have sent him on his way rather than re-sign him like Moyes did. I'm also not sure what the defence was supposed to do on Gerrard's wayward header. Drop back and play Suarez onside?
posted by idb at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2014


I dunno how one can really argue against 1000% Elephants, though. Drogba changes the game whenever he's on, though that didn't help much yesterday.

One of the commentators on a Guardian MBM yesterday mentioned that this is the fourth WC in a row where the defending champions bowed out early--it's not just tiki taka that's passed, but something about winning makes it hard to do repeatedly now. Of course, those players that are on the winning side get rewarded by higher contracts and play more, maybe it's harder to muster up the conditioning to win the World Cup as a repeat.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2014


So, my takeaway is that this style is like playing the trap in hockey: much hated and very successful until it is not.
posted by clvrmnky at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2014


I just stopped by to say COSTA RICA
posted by shothotbot at 10:56 AM on June 20, 2014 [12 favorites]


Pura vida!
posted by zyxwvut at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


These days I think Rooney is overrated.

Rooney Takes a Shot.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2014


After World Cup 2010 everyone adopted Spain's 4-2-3-1/4-3-3. After this one, I expect to see more 5-3-2 (wingbacks)/3-5-2 against the counter attack.

This makes no sense. The teams playing 5-3-2/3-5-2 are the counterattacking ones, and the historical issue with 3-5-2, the whole reason it fell out of favor after it got popular at the '86 WC, is that there's all sorts of space behind the wingbacks. Hit that space with runners (say, Jesus Navas and Pedro, or Theo Walcott) and it's game over.

In England this bodes well for teams like Liverpool

Liverpool's results next season are going to depend entirely on how much they beef up their squad. A lot of their success this past season came from the fact that they weren't playing in Europe against teams that were. (Plus there's no chance in hell Suarez doesn't regress.)
posted by asterix at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2014


Costa Rica: "What do you say to the Group of Death? Not today."

"I'm not locked in here with you..."
posted by kmz at 11:26 AM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Nice analysis, thanks for posting it. Also, Costa Rica were brilliant and have become my underdog heroes.
posted by languagehat at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't tell me you're a ManU fan.

NO I just like imagining awkward locker room scenes.
posted by elizardbits at 11:51 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


i like juventus im so embarrassed
posted by elizardbits at 11:52 AM on June 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Bravo Costa Rica. My toddler has almost recovered from Mommy screaming bloody murder at the telly.

If Italy goes out, I will remain convinced it is the bad juju of Gabriel Paletta's combover. That shit don't belong on my beloved stylish Azzurri.
posted by romakimmy at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


There is a decent chance of Columbia vs Costa Rica in the second stage which could be quite fun.
posted by shothotbot at 12:46 PM on June 20, 2014


I'm thoroughly enjoying all the CONCACAFfing occurring in this tournament. Hoping it continues on Sunday when The Yanks/Von Trapps take on Portugal.
posted by zakur at 1:03 PM on June 20, 2014


As long as Spain is willing to give younger players like De Gea, Isco and Koke (hell, even Fabregas) a chance to play they will do fine going forward. Loyalty cost them in this World Cup, but it is hard not to be loyal to the guys who have won you everything. What is more mystifying is England's loyalty to players like Gerrard and Rooney. If they weren't good enough when they were in their primes, why are they dictating team selection now?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:05 PM on June 20, 2014


England's youngsters and are not bad at all. Rooney should be an impact sub, if at all. Gerrard and Lampard should be headed to MLS and their final hurrah.
posted by josher71 at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


what is even going on in this game oh my god
posted by elizardbits at 1:34 PM on June 20, 2014


"...Phil Senderos, brought in as an early Swiss substitute..."


Well, there's your first problem right there.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2014


2-5 with my man Giroud scoring the first goal for France? That's good.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:01 PM on June 20, 2014


If they weren't good enough when they were in their primes, why are they dictating team selection now?


Because if they weren't selected, Hodgson would be crucified in the press. Being manager of England is a no-win situation.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:07 PM on June 20, 2014


Omg, Suarez. Hahahahaha.

Rooneys never done anything in between scoring the odd goal so I don't know why everyone's so surprised.

Gerrard and Lampard should be headed to MLS and their final hurrah.

Gerrard will be doddering around Anfield when he's 90.
posted by fshgrl at 2:38 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, the death of tiki-taka was that crazy long beautiful pass and then surreal header by van Persie?
posted by From Bklyn at 3:08 PM on June 20, 2014


No, it was the second half of that game, when Spain came out of the dressing room just looking flat. The penalty to put them ahead was soft, but they'd looked more likely to get the first goal, and in that first half the Netherlands didn't really look great at all.

Two bad halves did Spain in: the second half against the Netherlands, the first half against Chile. With a little more luck they could have gotten back into the Chile game, but they paid the price for having an out-of-form striker on the end of their chances. Really, if we're learning anything this World Cup, it's that teams with form strikers are destroying teams that don't have them. Oh, and that 3 at the back is coming into fashion again, which is so awesome. Oh, and that you don't even need to field center backs as long as you're willing to run all day and night (god I love Chile).
posted by Errant at 3:21 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


incidentally what are the nationalities of the guys commentating on ESPN right now?
posted by elizardbits at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2014


That Costa Rica goal was a beautiful thing.
posted by edgeways at 4:31 PM on June 20, 2014


Fernando Palomo (lead) is from El Salvador. Alejandro Moreno (color) is from Venezuela.
posted by Errant at 4:48 PM on June 20, 2014


I am really looking forward to seeing what del Bosque does on Monday with the Australia match. They have nothing to lose, so it would seem a good time to experiment a bit and see what the possibilities are with a younger squad.
posted by Dr. Zira at 4:52 PM on June 20, 2014


TheWhiteSkull: "Because if they weren't selected, Hodgson would be crucified in the press. Being manager of England is a no-win situation."

This. I mean, think about how much crap he's taking for the absence of John Terry. This system looked so much better than 2010, and I afraid Hodgson is not going to get enough credit for moving the ball forward so to speak and crafting a new system around Sturridge and Sterling and Welbeck, etc.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:04 PM on June 20, 2014


One last thing:
Na. Na na. Na na na na. Na na na na. GIROUD.
He needed that.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:07 PM on June 20, 2014


They weren't playing tiki taka this WC. It was in the style of Real Madrid, rather than Barca. And they didn't have players to play that way.

I love Palomo and Moreno.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:22 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


And they should have picked Llorente.
posted by persona au gratin at 5:24 PM on June 20, 2014


I think reports of the death of tiki taka might be exaggerated. Barca has been making terrible choices for the past few years and said choices have been catching up with them more and more; they changed their system once by depending too much on Messi and this year they changed it again (playing with... crosses). Bayern slumped at the worst time - leading the Bundesliga with 20 points difference sapped their motivation and destroyed their rhythm. The players of Spain have been growing older and they have been playing hundreds of games without much rest time, so no wonder they couldn't perform. Even Real wasn't looking very sprightly at the end (with the exception of a few players that won the 10th).
posted by ersatz at 9:24 AM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, Iran.
posted by nubs at 10:53 AM on June 21, 2014


Costa Rica: Sloth Kong

I love how it's smoking a blunt labelled "Uruguay" in one hand and crushing a plane with a Uruguay flag in the other.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:10 PM on June 21, 2014


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