Spain’s Tiqui-taca high-possession passing brand of football was never intended to be like this - the drawn-out, overbaked version we saw of it in Moscow on Sunday. It was never about stringing together 1,174 passes for meagre rewards - one, solitary goal – an own goal at that. With much less energy and exertion, Russia won a penalty and levelled the game. Originally, the Tiqui-taca model was based around maintaining possession in the opponents’ half with quick, well executed passes to force the rival defence into chasing the ball; as soon as an opening appeared then the ball was quickly through it – the opposition, dizzy and frustrated by chasing shadows, could do little to react in time. It was a technique which requires immaculate passing skills – and also acute attention and a keen eye to spot openings when they arise and take advantage of them. On top of that, you also need the resolve to win the ball back quickly whenever possession is lost with collective pressing. But that isn’t what we are seeing Spain do now – ceding the ball to each other as though it's a pet dog (one which is never allowed to cock a leg…)
Key components missing or on the wane
How did Spain’s game descend into this? Firstly, because they no longer have Xavi - the man who held the secret formula; and also because Iniesta and Silva are now showing their age. The latter’s fall from grace in Russia was almost as cringe worthy to witness as De Gea’s. That’s left just Isco who, without any accomplices to help him, sprayed the ball around like some kind of modern day Sisyphus on a life sentence. And Fernando Hierro, who got roped into the coaching job by accident, lacked the courage to change things before it was too late – but you can understand that. Spain got themselves out of a hole by discovering a successful system and Lopetegui had been trying to reconstruct the team’s style by using the same model. It all slipped through Hierro’s hands but could we really have expected him to reinvent the team in just one week?
Spain lacking self confidence and devoid of leaders
It’s been a hugely disappointing and unhappy World Cup for Spain. It started with Florentino’s hostile plundering of Lopetegui, who was seduced by Madrid’s siren song and was followed by Rubiales’ drastic reaction. Then our goalkeeper cocked up at the worst possible moment, which provoked a media racket the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent World Cups. Added to which Silva failed to show up, and Iniesta is no longer the player he was. A team which once had leaders like Casillas, Puyol and Xavi had its confidence drained from it; ok, Spain now have Ramos and Piqué but it’s not the same. It was a startling to see the team capsize so resoundingly, with the team unable to plug the permanent leak from our own goal and bale ourselves out. Anyway, our eyes are now fixed back on Brazil.