What factors contributed to Spain's dramatic exit from this years World Cup?

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Answered by: Matt, An Expert in the World Cup Category
Spain's World Cup 2014, a review.

For the past three major international tournaments Spanish have lifted the trophy come final day, however in the 2014 World Cup they found themselves trudging back to their coach, or in Vincent Del Bosque's case the oppositions coach, after their second game with their dreams in tatters. The question on the forefront of their fans minds, just what contributed to Spain's dramatic exit?

Diego Costa:

For me, the blame begins with the inclusion of Diego Costa in a pivotal role as the main striker. Costa made the decision to reject his home nation, Brazil, in favour of playing for the Spanish side despite having made two U-21 appearances for Brazil. The predominantly Brazilian crowd took offence to this and berated him with boos and heckles in both games he played in, perhaps contributing to his poor performances. Costa has only made four appearances for Spain, two of those coming in this years World Cup, as such he didn't have the same understanding that the majority of the side shared after having won three major competitions as a unit. Despite a highly successful year at club level, consisting of a La Liga title and 36 goals in all competitions, he was unable to bring this form to the national level and equally unsuccessful in contributing something new to what was a highly successful system.

Iker Casillas:

156 caps, three major international tournaments won, and the captain of the side; yet he managed to concede seven goals in a mere two games and was replaced by on loan keeper Pepe Reina for their final game. The reason I'm singling out Casillas is due to his lack of appearances for his club Real Madrid, for in the 2013-14 season he made only 2 league appearances, whilst preferred keeper Diego Lopez made the remaining 36. If Casillas isn't considered the best goalkeeper at his club, how could Spain justify him being the best keeper in their country? This matter is further confused by the fact that Diego Lopez is also Spanish, yet despite this he was not called up to the national side for this tournament. At the age of 33 I doubt we will see Casillas play a major role in upcoming international tournaments, and his performances did nothing to justify his inclusion in future competitions.

Style of Play:

Spain's style of football, known as 'Tiki-taka', requires them to control the game through passing, they are able to slowly and methodically take teams apart by maintaining possession and dominating play. However this style was completely ineffective against both Holland and Chile, who both employed fast-paced attacking football in order to take down the previous champions. In both games for the final minutes, stating defeat in the face, Spain abandoned any tactical system and simply began lumping the ball forward searching for their deep men, this in particular displayed the depravity of their situation.

Toll of Time:

Xavi and Andreas Iniesta, two icons in Spain who have participated in their previous victories in important roles were both out of their depth this time around. Iniesta is the younger of the two at 30, displayed none of his direct running and technical abilities that have earned him plaudits across the world. Xavi, now 34, failed to dictate the tempo of the game and his pinpoint accurate passes left much to be desired often overhitting the ball or giving it away to the opposition. Time slows down for no man, and perhaps it is time these two stepped aside and allowed a younger generation of Spanish footballers to step into the ranks and prove their worth.

Since Xabi Alonso scored a penalty 27 minutes in against Holland, perceived by many as the signal of their intent in this World Cup, they have conceded 7 goals without response before a dignified 3-0 victory over minnows Australia. Billed as one of the favourites to win the competition, Spain's dramatic exit is a shock for both fans and players alike as the once unbeatable side have crashed out a mere two games in. A combination of; poor individual performances, aged players, and predictable tactics have all taken their toll on Spain's World Cup campaign.

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