Everyone’s asking what happened to Spain. My answer: not much. I think they are about as good as they were four years ago. Why the crash out? Primarily luck. I know you aren’t liking this and I look forward to your comments but before you do, here is a recap of some of the key turning points for La Roja in South Africa 2010. I’ll start with the group match vs. Chile.
Spain v Chile 2-1
David Villa scores the first goal, a one-touch, empty-net shot from 40 yards when the Chilean keeper comes out of his area and slams a clearance, which lands at his feet. Watch it here.
Spain v Portugal 1-0 (round of 16)
Iker spills a shot, much like Akinfeev does in 2014. It squirts through his hands and rises high in the air. He barely manages to slap the ball away. Then he fails to handle a Ronaldo free kick and allows the rebound to fall centrally, about 12 yards out — just like he did vs Chile in 2014. The difference? In 2010 the ball falls to his defenders instead of a Portugal attacker.
In the second half, Puyol almost scores an own goal, missing by a foot. Villa scores the winner but is arguably offside, see this Zapruder-quality investigation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0JN5YQbmkk
Spain v Paraguay 1-0 (Quarter final)
Iker saves a PK. Xabi scores a PK, it’s annulled for encroachment, he misses the follow-up. On the winning goal, Pedro (#18 shoots and hits the post; it rebounds to Villa, his shot hits the right post, left post, and goes in.
Spain v Germany 1-0 (Semi-final)
A tight match, the only goal is from a Puyol header from Xavi’s corner. It’s a play they ran at FC Barcelona.
Spain v Holland The Final 1-0 a.e.t.
Holland should probably have won but Iker saves from Robben with the bottom of his foot.
Iker had this to say after they crashed out this week:
“When you don’t have luck on your side and you don’t perform well enough at a World Cup, this is what happens. This is football. Four years ago everything went our way and now it’s negative.”
There is a tremendous amount of random chance in every game: crossbars, posts, errors that don’t cost you, errors that do. Referee decisions, line calls, yellow and red cards. Spain’s players were not as sharp as they were four years ago, and their opponents all seemed more prepared to face their style of play. But to me a lot of the reason they are going home is just the luck of the draw.