Last year's losing finalists Netherlands beat defending champions Spain 5-1 in their Group B match at the World Cup in Brazil in what was the most entertaining yet shocking result in the tournament so far.
With two group matches still to go, Spain are surely not out of the tournament — their confidence is dented, but they faced a similar writing-off in 2010 when they succumbed to Switzerland in their opening game before going on to be crowned champions. It may sound critical of the Dutch, but there are better teams out there and if Spain want to make sure they pose a strong defence of their title, then they quickly need to make some changes and bounce back.
Here are three things they need to do to get over the humiliating defeat:
Play David Villa: Not Brazilian-turned-Spaniard Diego Costa or the perennially misfiring Fernando Torres — the Spanish team needs the clinical finishing of Villa on top. He is Spain's all-time top-scorer, has had a fantastic season for Atletico Madrid and will be raring to go in his last international tournament. Villa gives you more mobility than Costa and certainly matches his finishing ability — plus he is way better than Torres.
He's always produced the goods against the top teams — the 92nd minute winner against Sweden and the penalty against Italy at Euro 2008 and the goals against Portugal and Paraguay at World Cup 2010 — and has the calm in front of goal that Spain so lacked against Netherlands. Spain mustered only three out of their 10 shots on target — and need a man of Villa's calibre to finish the numerous chances they created.
Play tiki-taka: What Spain played against Netherlands was not tiki-taka — yes, the template was the same but the passing was riskier, more direct and allowed for the occasional long-ball. It wasn't a complete failure, with Spain creating seven scoring chances — David Silva and Costa enjoying the best of them — but it seemed like they were trying to convince the world that they can play another brand of football. Spain's best moments came with this direct approach but there was an underlying impatience to their game, a lack of composure and a reluctance to play the simpler pass.
Del Bosque has already gone on record stating that they are 'not like Talibans' when it comes to playing a style of football but Xavi has also made it clear that Spain should stick to what they do best. They still have their golden generation in the team and tiki-taka is what they do best. Why Del Bosque would force his team to play a mix of two styles is beyond explanation when one style has brought the team three major trophies in a row.
With the three central midfielders not playing closer to each other than usual, it created a void in defence too — with the back two struggling to cope with Netherlands' pace as the Spanish wingbacks constantly poured forward to join a narrow attack.
Give new blood a chance: If Del Bosque really wants to change the style of his team, then he has to change its core. Andres Iniesta is the untouchable in midfield, but there are alternatives for Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets in the form of Koke (seven goals, 18 assists), Pedro (19 goals, 13 assists), Juan Mata and Cazorla. In defence, Juanfran is a much better option than Azpilicueta — the former is solid at the back and inventive going forward too. The first two Netherlands goals came from the left and Azpilicueta should never have allowed Daley Bling to get those balls in.
Spain have come under criticism for playing boring football and while his team lasted for 45 minutes playing a radical style of their old approach — he must remember that most of his players have been trained rigorously under one system. The 5-1 loss is the perfect cover to make some gradual changes in a Spanish side that looks predictable.
Updated Date: Jun 14, 2014 20:09:05 IST