Spain reflects on two days of woe

Do untimely Champions League semi-final exits for Barcelona and Real signal the end of Spain's golden football era?

    Spain reflects on two days of woe
    Real and Barca's exit at the hands of German opposition is forcing Spanish football fans to re-evaluate their position in world football [AFP]

    Humiliated? Yes. But is it too soon to announce the end of Spain’s golden era?

    Spanish media are demanding significant changes in Real Madrid and Barça, after their inglorious Champions League exits, while German newspapers are rubbing their hands with glee about possible Bundesliga dominance in the next few years.

    But these defeats will be hard to digest for Spanish football fans, who consider their sport to be the highest prized jewel of the country, especially in these tough times of economic crisis and austerity measures.

    Dortmund and Bayern’s impeccable performance made Spaniards rack their brains to understand their success:

    "German football has been improving since 2008 because football clubs are obliged to have training centres for the youth team," said Miguel Gutiérrez, Bundesliga commentator for Canal + Spain.

    "Thomas Müller, Mario Götze and Manuel Neuer came from there."

    German football financial philosophy is very different from the Spanish one. In Spain the aim is winning at any cost, perhaps explaining why several Primera Division clubs are at risk of bankruptcy, whereas the German approach is more disciplined, and spending is carefully regulated.

    All this has opened an international debate about a football power shift from Spain to Germany.

    "I wonder who would be favourites now in an international match between Spain and Germany", Michael Owen tweeted yesterday after Barça's defeat.

    He’s not alone in wondering this. Important figures in the football world such as former Real coach Bernd Schuster think that Spain's cycle of dominance is coming to an end.

    It is true that ‘football works in generations’ and that key players of Spain's golden generation such as Xavi, Casillas, Puyol, Villa or Xabi Alonso have grown older and their physical ability has changed over the years – indeed those players are expected to retire after World Cup 2014.

    Spain’s football style tiki-taka is also becoming too familiar. Rivals now know the Spanish style of play, indeed it is the same strategy used by the team that feeds more players to the national team La Roja: FC Barcelona.

    Barça's recent defeats in the Champions League show that this tiki-taka style has become too predictable. Players use the famous possession strategy but they don’t score. They lack speed and verticality in the last metres.

    "We have to be realistic. Winning World Cup 2014 is practically impossible." says Begoña Pérez, Spanish football correspondent for talkSPORT Live.

    "We Spaniards should be grateful to belong to a generation who has seen the national team to do something unprecedented: winning three international tournaments in a row."


    But for many Spanish football fans losing the next World Cup 2014 would be unthinkable. La Roja is more than a football team for them. It represents hope.

    When Spain won the European Championships in 2008, for the first time in decades Spaniards felt something that has been shamefully hidden since Franco’s death: national pride. La Roja made them proud again to show their flag and gave them hope in tough times.

    Winning the World Cup in 2010 united the country even more.

    The motto of fans was clear: 'Spain’s economy is not the envy of the world, but we have the best football team'.

    But Spain, in its current situation, with more than 6 million people unemployed, cannot afford to lose faith in its football.

    Spanish dominance in football will depend on the next generations of Spanish players. Juan Mata and David de Gea are promising examples for English clubs Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.

    Despite all different opinions, Spain is still the best football team in the world. According to Gaby Ruíz, Canal + sports journalist, Spain will be the ‘favourite in the next World Cup’.

    So to all those who think Spanish football is on a decline: slow down.

    It could be too soon to say that Spanish football dominance has come to an end.

    There’s one year left until the World Cup 2014 and many things can happen. The Champions League semi-finals have just showed how unpredictable football could be.

    Manuela Lanza is an Italo-Spanish journalist pursuing an MA in international journalism at City University London with a concentration on broadcast. She is based in London. Manuela speaks Spanish, Italian, English, French and Catalan. Follow her on Twitter @ManuelaNEWS 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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