Could it now be possible that Spain are no longer considered as the best national team in the world? It could well be after their failure add international silverware this summer. Since their win in Vienna back in Euro 2008, the Spanish have been at the pinnacle of international football. Two more major tournaments past, with both only adding to their reputation.
However, in this summer’s Confederations Cup, they could not live up to their billing. A comfortable stroll through the group stages was to be expected but needing penalties to beat a side that they had smashed four past a year earlier, was not.
Nor were the three goals conceded to Brazil in the final. The last time they had conceded three or more was back in November 2010 when they were defeated 4-0 by Portugal in a friendly.
This recent defeat though, will undoubtedly hurt a lot more. They were expected to complete a clean sweep of trophies this year with victory in Brazil. It did not happen and they were ripped apart by an on-form Neymar.
Fred also caused Spain endless troubles on Sunday night and he is the man they would have wanted in their own ranks. With the distribution abilities of Xavi, Andrés Iniesta and Javi Martinez, their attack lacks a real spearhead. Fernando Torres finished top scorer in the competition but with four of them against an out-of-depth Tahiti, he can hardly be relied on.
David Villa is also not getting any younger and Roberto Soldado is relatively inexperienced at international despite making his debut for his country back in 2007. However, may be it is too ruthless to say the side, who have only lost seven games in all competitions since their victory in Austria five years ago, are no longer at the top of world football.
There were still positives from Vicente del Bosque’s point of view to be taken from the tournament. A back four of Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos and Álvaro Arbeloa held tight until the final, conceding just one goal in their progress to the Maracanã. The ever dependable Iniesta was also named as the runner up for player of the tournament.
These may seem like an optimistic approach but they are something that Del Bosque can build on. The fact they are mostly keeping it tight at the back is a major advantage. It means that the centre forward spot can be the focus of their preparations for next year. Fernando Llorente could return to form by next year after his move to Juventus. Álvaro Negredo has also been tipped for a move to a move to the Premier League which could see him thrust back in line for a recall.
There are also the players from the successful under 21 side who could yet make an impact on the senior side. Benfica’s Rodrigo and the top scorer from this year’s U21 Championship Álvaro Morata could both still add attacking threat and give Del Bosque something to consider. Spain’s status may have been damaged by the defeat to Brazil but the alarm bells do not need to start ringing just yet. They still have a lot of time before next year’s World Cup to prepare and a lot could change, players could return to form and everything could fall into place.
The squad will have to face their demons when they return to Rio next year for the World Cup and it is looking like it will be greatest test they have faced since their world domination began.