The world cup stage was set and Spain were touted to be one of the favourites to take the famous trophy home again. They have a team filled with superstars but sometimes, even the best quality does not always guarantee success and that was proven in the end.
Spain were eliminated from the World Cup for a number of reasons. The sacking of their coach Julen Lopetegui at the start as well as selection errors by stand-in manager Fernando Hierro. In the end, a penalty shootout and some lacklustre performances saw Spain head home at the end of the group stages. The disappointment had set in with fans and players but a good team does not become bad overnight, so what happened?
News began to filter through on the eve of the World Cup that Spain were sacking their manager Julen Lopetegui. Many thought it could not be true, not so close to the start of the biggest tournament in the world, but it was true. He had taken the vacant job at Real Madrid and so, his time was up. He was shown the door, Spain had no head coach. Madness.
The thought alone, that Spain, one of the biggest footballing nations in the world were going into a tournament with no manager was ludicrous but it was happening. However, Spain quickly put Fernando Hierro in charge but there was no doubt that the original incident was the catalyst for what would be a dire World Cup experience.
While this was not an ideal solution, it seemed to be the only solution. Despite this, Spain are a very good team and are still a very good team, despite being knocked out. Even if they had kept Lopetegui, they were not guaranteed to win anything because football has a strange way of punishing you when you are least expecting it. However, when your leader is taken away, there has to be some kind of aftermath or fall out and that happened. The media were reporting manically on the situation. How could they sack him so soon? Why not wait until after the World Cup? What harm would it do to keep him in place? They were valid questions but questions that no longer needed answering because Spain were looking vulnerable before a ball had been kicked.
Spain are the masters of the beautiful game. They have players who grace the field and control a game in ways that are almost magical but there did appear to be something wrong. Despite being true professionals with vast amounts of experience, the sacking incident would have set them back. The media had clearly identified that the new coach had stepped in with no prior planning of how Spain would approach the tournament, he was effectively thrown into the deep end, as were the players.
You can have some of the best players in the world, which Spain has in an abundance but without someone at the top, pointing them in the right direction, they can get lost. In the end, it came down to a penalty shootout. Penalty shootouts are the Russian roulette of the football world, which is quite fitting given who they lost to and where the world cup was being played.
Despite all of this, we are talking about Spain. They are previous World Cup winners and as their current team will slowly be dismantled, they will rebuild because this is what they have done over the last 15 years. Spain are wounded, there is no doubt about that but that will only spur them on to improve and prove the world wrong next time around!