Spain 1 Netherlands 5 analysis: Is this the end of Spain's reign at the top of the world?

Has the heavy defeat by the Netherlands signalled the end for Vicente del Bosque's side?

James Orr
Saturday 14 June 2014 13:11 BST
A downbeat Iker Casillas looks on during the heavy defeat in Salvador
A downbeat Iker Casillas looks on during the heavy defeat in Salvador (GETTY IMAGES)

Like Brazil in 1966, France in 2002 and Italy in 2010 all great teams have to come to an end, so was the 5-1 thrashing by the Netherlands on Friday night the end of the great Spain team and their six-year reign as the best team in the world?

The once-legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas (33), record scorer David Villa (32), plus the great midfield pair of Xavi (34) and Andres Iniesta (30) are all likely to feature in at a World Cup finals for the final time in Brazil, meaning that by the time the tournament takes place in Russia in four years it will be a much changed Spanish line-up, a squad in the process of transtition.

But was the defeat really that much of a surprise? The free-flowing ‘tiki-taka’ brand of football that the Spanish pioneered has come into criticism in recent years, with fast-paced counter-attacking teams being able to render their possession and passing strategy useless.

Xavi, Iniesta and Villa’s Barcelona were thrashed 7-0 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in last year’s Champions League semi-final, showing to the world that ‘tiki-taka’ can be both outplayed and dominated.

While Spain may have lost their first match of the 2010 World Cup but recovered to win the tournament, the manner of the humbling in Salvador will not be quite so easy to come back from. By conceding five against the Netherlands, they have now conceded more than they have in the last two World Cups already, their formerly watertight defence is no more. Carles Puyol has recently retired, and Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos played like strangers.

To put the defeat into its brutal context, Spain have only ever suffered one heavier defeat in World Cup history, and that was 64 years ago in the second round against Brazil in 1950, when they were obliterated 6-1. After that tournament they did not qualify for the next two World Cups; will it history repeat itself?

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