Custodian Editorial: What does Spain’s poor World Cup signify?

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One of the flaws with doing the ThinkTank posts is that it could diminish one’s authority as knowledgeable on a topic. It leaves one with egg on face when predictions prove wrong. In my case, confidently claiming Spain would win the World Cup was daft. I had my doubts when Fernando Torres and David Villa were chosen over the likes of Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo. Villa is on his way to the A League and MLS, Xavi is off to Qatar and one can’t help but feel that this might have been a step too far. Despite these things, my argument was built on the premise that the Spaniards always found a way to overcome and this time will be no different.

For these group of players, a core we had started to feel were supernatural, this marks the end. With everyone quick to write their obituaries and the pleasure I saw people deriving on social media, it reminded me of how familiarity breeds contempt. In 2008, I was in Secondary School in Nigeria and fancied myself as a Spaniard. I nearly cried for joy when Italy were overcome on penalties in the quarter finals of the European Champions. After Zinedine Zidane took them out in the 2006 World Cup, there were fears that Spain would never shed their habit of underachieving. It stood to reason that Spain with only 1 trophy at international level, had betrayed the expectations imposed on it by the presence of one of the most iconic fixtures in World Football, El Clasico.

In 2008, Spain were new, Spain were refreshing. By 2010, my period of fandom had ended. This time, I was in boarding school in England. We had some Spanish Exchange students over and I found them utterly irritating. It also didn’t help that Spain had become mainstream. In 2008, I felt special, no one else was rooting for Spain around me. In 2010, everyone was. It didn’t feel special anymore. So I rooted for Germany and cussed when Spain beat them in the semi finals. This side are the greatest side, international football has seen. They were able to play and win with style, something the Dutch teams (the yardstick for style) of old never managed. Spain had an identity. It’s been said that a team has a 4 year cycle; the Spanish team did 6 years.

This episode highlights how fickle football fans can be. In late April, when Xabi Alonso’s slide tackle earned him a yellow card in the Champions League semi finals, the talk was that his absence would significantly hurt Real. Alonso, an endearing figure is one of the greats in the deep lying playmaker role. After the Chile game where he made a mistake, the talk was that his days at the top level are numbered. Good players have bad games. Alonso, has won a World Cup, two Champions Leagues and two European Championships and is still a key player at the biggest club in the world. If his days were reaching an end, Real (a club where sentimentality is dispensed with) would have gotten rid ages ago.

In this era, it’s become increasingly common for people to speak in hyperbole. Spain crumble and it’s suddenly “Tiki Taka Tada”. People seem to forget that the style and vision is what endures forever. Tiki Taka is not dead and will never die. It also seems people are quick to forget that at age grade football, Spain currently rule the roost. In the likes of Dani Carvajal, Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Jese Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata, they’ve got a crop of players who are ready to take the reins. The Spanish set up essentially just needs some tweaks in personnel and it could still reign supreme.

To the likes of David Villa, Xavi, Carles Puyol and the recently deceased Luis Aragones and Tito Villanova who had roles in creating this flawless team, Thank you!

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