Spain go through to the next round of the World Cup having topped their group, but it was a pure miracle. We played badly against Morocco, with the ‘violin section’, save Isco, out of tune, with the team badly set out and with a goalkeeper just as insecure as in the previous games. But we went through top of the group thanks to a late goal from Iago Aspas, which the VAR certified as having been millimetres onside, having been chalked off by the referee, and because at the very same time the VAR awarded a penalty in favour of Iran, which led to them drawing 1-1 with Portugal. Previously, it must be noted, Cristiano Ronaldo had missed a penalty, rara avis. Topping the group was in Spain’s interest, because beyond Russia in the next round, if Spain do beat the hosts, things look easier.
Good news and a lot of bad news for Spain
The good news is this: topping the group. The other smidgen of good news is that Isco is on fire and Iago Aspas, when he appears, is incredibly hungry. But the rest of it is all bad news. Silva’s missing. Iniesta produced a few moments but he’s not the player from the Cup final. Thiago did little. The wingers aren’t in great form. The team isn’t stringing together their usual possession based moves, the tiki-taka, the domination with the ball, that bores teams to the point of taking them out of the game. We’ve seen this over the years, we lose the ability for a time; we got it back in qualifying, but it’s gone again. And the defects are still there: the team struggles to win the ball back, the central defenders are overconfident. And the keeper…
Time for Spain to change
“It’s time for the coach to do something”, concluded Cañizares on the radio as the match went on. Hierro shook up the team close to the end, bringing on Iago Aspas and Asensio first and then Rodrigo, but maybe it was an act of desperation, although it ended up working. But the feeling I’m left with is that we need to change the model, that is unless Iniesta and Silva, the latter in particular, start producing. It’s a hard decision to take, harder to carry out, given that we’re in the middle of the World Cup. it’s like changing horses mid-stream. But if the horse is drowning, there’s no choice. There has to be time to consider it, because right now Spain are going nowhere.