Swan Song.

How do you end a disastrous World Cup campaign?

When you still are the reigning champions (until such time a new champion is named by July 13), you go out in style. And in style they did, scoring three goals against Australia to salvage pride, and the belief that the champions can bounce back and return.

David Villa scored from a cheeky backheel in open play right before halftime. It was classic Villa—shifty, crafty, and somewhat unorthodox. It was a reminder of how Spain played in (and won) the World Cup four years ago.

It was the fitting swan song for the man who has cemented himself as Spain’s all-time highest goalscorer in international competitions, and when he was subbed out in the 56th minute, the tears just flowed. It is all too much to take in that we will never see David Villa at this level ever again.

One of two other men who scored Spain’s goals was the much-maligned Fernando Torres, who never really found his form four years on. Ah, but El Niño will always be the Great Hope of Spanish Football, eventually finding the back of the net in the 69th minute.

Juan Mata hit the nail in the coffin with a nutmeg on Australia’s goalkeeper in the 82nd minute.

Andres Iniesta played a brilliant game on his 100th cap for Spain. As for the youngsters, apart from Mata, Koke was fearless in taking his shots—a portend of the good things to come.

Surely, it was not the kind of run that we all expected, but we are consoled by the fact that the Spain of the old was still present. It may just need new blood, fresh legs, and an evolution in style, but if anything, this rather emotional non-bearing game made us see that the heart of a champion is still there.

Onto Euro 2016, and a much-deserved rest for the players. ¡Gracias campeones!

Brazil Soccer WCup Australia Spain Spain's Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring a goal during the 2014 World Cup Group B soccer match between Australia and Spain at the Baixada arena

 

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Fin de Ciclo

Spain lost to Chile 2-0, and given just how much they’ve been caught unawares by the Netherlands, it almost seemed expected. Chile, four years ago, were dangerous, and this time around, they were brilliant. They defended as a team, pressing and attacking relentlessly.

Whereas Spain… Spain knew they had to erase the ghosts of the 1-5 defeat in their opening match, but it seemed as though that was the only thing going on in their minds, not actually winning the game. The passing game was not there. The midfielders were effectively neutralized. The defense was a step behind. And Iker? He cut a lonely figure, having been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism (some unwarranted—after all, there’s only so much that a goalkeeper can do).

A Football Report had the best eulogy for the passing of this generation of Spanish football. Call it the end of an era, fin de ciclo, or really, just the natural order of how things progress. This World Cup run may be horrible for Spain, but never forget: THE LAST SIX YEARS WERE TREMENDOUS.

And after a good cry, it is comforting to remember that Spain’s U23s and U19s are also World Champions. The future is bright. Now time to find that new system for us to dominate once again.

It’s too tempting to place photos of players in despair after the match, but let’s not make it the final images for us to remember these champions. I’d rather remember this greatest generation in the best way possible.

Gracias, campeones. Un mil gracias.

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World Cup 2014: Spain 1 – 5 Netherlands

It’s a little over five hours since the final whistle blew on what has been another Red Wedding of sorts (ah, querida, La Roja, blood has spilled, figuratively), and I am still wearing my Xabi Alonso shirt. The FIFA World Champions 2010 patch and the single star above the Spanish escudo remind me of this team’s greatest achievement—which seems both etched clearly in my mind and yet long, long ago.

Watching the Netherlands dismantle Spain is nothing less of a nightmare unfolding before your eyes. Sure, there were moments were it was too easy to blame Iker Casillas—but where were Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in some of those instances? Those three may have been the most culpable for a couple of goals that could have been saved on any other given competition.

Still, more questions needed to be asked. Why take out Xabi Alonso for Pedro Rodriguez who didn’t contribute to anything? Call me incredibly biased, but Xabi has been the midfield maestro since Euro 2012, overtaking Xavi from setting the pace of the midfield (as well as providing adequate cover). Was Diego Costa truly the best man to be put up front? Would it have been a different story if David Villa started? When will Fernando Torres finally overcome the demons in his head? Where were the fullbacks? Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta were nowhere near tracking back. I missed Alvaro Arbeloa. Has everyone got Spain’s game read like the alphabet?

More importantly: For the ones that ones that won everything, is there anything left to win?

Saying that this is the beginning of the end is quite premature. Defeats will always make Spain have a reflexive conversation with itself—to ask the right questions, to find the right answers.

Just as in 2010 when we lost the opening game, we will bounce back. Tenemos las corazones de campeones.

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Rallying the La Roja faithful in time for WC 2014

Maldita Nerea’s “Buena Energia” (Good Energy—sounds something like Paul Hewitt would say)/”Yo Te Seguiré” (I will Follow You) is my new LSS. They’ve got Iker, Xavi, Diego Costa, Jordi Alba, and Cesar Azpilicueta on the video. It is also quite remarkable for the sole fact that Iker does not have a sense of rhythm.

Here’s a TVC from Cruzcampo, which asks for the “hearts”/escudos of the La Roja shirt. Even if it’s in Spanish, you can figure out pretty much what they will do with those collected—form a giant heart to be sent to the NT in Brazil. Oh, and mad props for Sergio Ramos’ subtle acting skills.

My favorite has got to be the Movistar TVC. Basically, it asks the question, “How do you motivate the stars who have won everything?” The simple answer: make them wear disguises and put them in another’s shoes and make them experience the effort put in by different people in different fields. Andres Iniesta is sent to the kitchens to peel potatoes. Juanfran and Santi Cazorla are sent to work as gardeners. Pepe Reina is a pre-school teacher. Xabi Alonso is a nurse in a home for the elderly.

Cannes-worthy, I think.

Xabi Alonso is a vision in red.

Well, if I can’t see him anytime soon (or anymore) in Liverpool red, todo La Roja does it quite nicely, doesn’t it?

Also, by beating France 1-0, Spain is currently on top of Group I in the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers. You can never write the campeones del mundo out of it.

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Well, this happened.

If this doesn’t motivate Fernando Torres to get back in fighting form for a spot in the Spanish National Team, then I don’t know what will.

Feliz cumpleaños, El Niño!

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Quite an awesome football week!

This week is one for the books when it comes to football, simply because there’s just too many of the awesome to report on.

One. Steven Gerrard reached 100 caps for England. Here he is with 100 school kids, posing for photos. Too adorable.

Two. Zlatan Ibrahimovic didn’t just score a world-class goal. It was out of this world. Proof:

Three. Spain thrashed Panama, and we have Sergio Ramos contributing to the goalscoring thanks to this awesome free kick. Just a few more attempts, and mi hombre is on his way of becoming a free kick specialist!

Four. The Azkals won over the Lions! Quite an inspired second half from the boys—and boy, oh boy, Ed Sacapaño was just one huge wall against Singapore! My thoughts on it here. (P.S. No more drama and politicking please in the NT—time to have a win-at-all-cost mentality!)

Five. Liverpool beat Wigan at Anfield 3-0, thanks to a Luis Suarez brace and a Jose Enrique goal. Gotta love the Suarez-Sterling partnership, and Jose Enrique finally at his best. Now this is the Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers that I’ve been waiting to see! (Also, Everton, Chelsea, and Manchester United lost this weekend—what joy!)

Six. Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao (I do like this Basque team though), 5-1, anchored by inspired performances from Karim Benzema and Mesut Özil.

Borrachos!

Here are more photos from La Roja’s celebrations in Madrid. Seems like these guys have upped the ante on celebratory drunkenness.

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Here’s more proof of the borrachos onstage:

The Pepe Reina Show, Euro 2012 Version

Reckon Pepe Reina has outdone himself. Some highlights: Torres and Ramos getting all affectionate with each other, Alonso being visibly drunk, Sergio “Panenka” Ramos kissing Reina, “Espartanos!”—gah, I love this team.