EURO 2016 Qualifying: The Choking Curse Of Spain


During EURO 2016 qualifying on Thursday, the unexpected happened. Spain lost to Slovakia.

Before Spain’s golden era, the national team from year to year and competition to competition never stood out in Europe. They were always the team that were expected to either choke under the opportunities of big progressions, or just simply unable to reach their full potential. This is the exact reason why the football world was so stunned when Spain not only challenged for the European Championships twice, but also the coveted and most prestigious World Cup.

A national team whose reputation was nothing more than another “opponent” could actually reign world football for 3 consecutive tournaments was absolutely thrilling–but times have changed all to clearly. Although the football world recognized how dangerous the use of Spanish techniques could be in world and club football, the essence of its power is surely fading. This is not to say that tiki taka is dead, but tiki taka needs a goddamn make over.

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On Thursday Spain went to MSK Zilina to play Slovakia in their first Euro 2016 qualifier since their effortless win against Macedonia last month. In some ways unsurprisingly, Spain were not held to a draw, but a loss with the final score at 2-1 in Slovakia‘s favor.

Let alone the fact that Slovakia is ranked 40th in the world compared to former world champions Spain who are ranked 8th in the world, there is simply no excuse for these continuous failures at victory. It is noble of coach Vincente Del Bosque to stand firm in his place as the Spanish leader, but his inflexibility to provide results for the team is truly hurting the squad and the country. Spain have plenty to loose, as they have an aura to preserve; but it does not look like it will be unblemished for much longer if these kinds of performances continue.

Spain’s defense, even as far back at the World Cup has been in serious question. First choice centre back Sergio Ramos was missing from the squad, and his experienced read of the game was surely yearned for in Del Bosque’s back four. But this does not leave bad performances from the likes of just as experienced Gerrard Pique, Juanfran and Jordi Alba to be dismissed. Spain’s defensive problems are crying for attention and in a world where the counter attack is a prominent strategy, they will continue to suffer these kinds of losses.

Jun 7, 2014; Landover, MD, USA; Spain midfielder Koke (17) dribbles the ball against El Salvador at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Slovakia opened scoring with a free-kick by Juraj Kucka in the 17th minute–bursting clearly through the unmoved Spanish wall right in behind Iker Casillas. Spain could not find one proper opening to score until the 82nd minute when Valencia forward, Paco Alcarer, who seemed offside, tapped a sloppy ball into the back of the net. Only a few minutes later, on a break swiftly past the Spanish defense, Miroslav Stoch heads the ball through Casillas and through the rest of Spain hopes to win the match.

It should be noted that although Diego Costa has been on a wrecking streak for Chelsea at club level, he has been unable to score a goal for Spain in 6 appearances. And it should also be noted that he still has Cesc Fabregas to his aid while playing nationally as he does at club level. Many would say thie duo is the engine behind Chelsea’s successes so far. So what are the issues at hand?

Defensively there is a continuous mess which needs to be addressed. Spain no longer looked terrifying, but terrified. If this issue is left to be swept until France, then Del Bosque must welcome another humiliating campaign.