Tim Stannard reflects on an indifferent 12 months for La Roja...
Playing a season finale in Galicia was always going to be a party-pooping temptation, too strong for the local rain gods to resist.
SPAIN IN 2014
- Spain 1-0 Italy (F)
- Spain 2-0 Bolivia (F)
- El Salvador 0-2 Spain (F)
- Spain 1-5 Holland (WC)
- Spain 0-2 Chile (WC)
- Australia 0-3 Spain (WC)
- France 1-0 Spain (F)
- Spain 5-1 Macedonia (ECQ)
- Slovakia 2-1 Spain (ECQ)
- Luxembourg 0-4 Spain (ECQ)
- Spain 3-0 Belarus (ECQ)
- Spain 0-1 Germany (F)
Especially with the sight of fairly empty stands in Celta Vigo’s ground and a boring as mustard friendly against Germany, designed to give the Nolito’s of the Spanish squad a run-out, possibly never to be seen again.
What could have been a rootin'-tootin' affair to wrap up a glorious year, in an alternate reality, ended up as Spain’s first home defeat since 2006, and a reminder of how far the mighty had fallen.
Instead of an XI stuffed with classic names such as Xabi Alonso, David Villa and Andrés Iniesta, the former world champions ended the defeat with José Callejón on the pitch and an Espanyol goalkeeper keeping guard. No offense to either of course. Well... maybe a little bit.
Indeed, it was Kiko Casilla who was slighty to blame for allowing a Toni Kroos shot to sneak through his outstretched arms late doors, a few letters away from a story about another blunder from the Spain captain and useful bloke between the sticks.
Marca noted rather bleakly that 2014 was the worst year of the century for La Roja with five defeats and a truly terrible World Cup. The optimism over the performance of Isco in the Belarus victory was quickly forgotten once Spain kicked off against a team who are not Belarus.
The columnists in the Spanish press were left looking for crumbs of comfort in what was a drab affair. “Kroos chucks a bucket of cold water,” was the headline of Spain. Marca were a little more positive in the Kroos direction, remembering that the midfielder is a Real Madrid player, and therefore putting a bit of Bernabéu spin on the winning goal is a must.
Thankfully Mad Tomás Roncero is in the AS house to give a rousing send-off for the Spanish squad. “Looking in the rear-view mirror only raises doubts,” says Tomás on a policy which is embraced by Spanish drivers. “We are a new Spain, younger and hungrier.”
To what extent Vicente del Bosque is going to continue with the experimentation next year, when the team returns against Ukraine in March, is the big question. The Spain boss may well want to persevere with some big hitters up front like Diego Costa, Pedro and even consider a return for Alvaro Negredo should his Valencia spell work out.
Then again, an awful lot of fresher faces in attack have been in and out of the squad such as Callejón, Alvaro Morata, Rodrigo, Paco Alcácer and Nolito. Real Madrid’s precocious talent, Jesé, should also be back in action by Christmas. Some of these might be hanging around a bit longer.
As ever with Del Bosque’s Spain, the choice is always which of the many differing paths must be taken if the country wants to move on from a rather bleak night in Vigo to a much brighter future. Don Vicente has five months of pondering to do.