All Hail King James

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James Rodriguez and the rest of the Colombia squad may have bowed out to Brazil, but this young man has won for himself a legion of fans from all over the world, showcasing to the world his skills and his flair for scoring. Now the world knows his name and how it is pronounced. I can only hope he wins the Golden Boot and Golden Ball. Six goals in five matches, without reaching the semifinals.

Take a bow, James Rodriguez. You deserve the accolades.

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

 

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.

Spain Euro 2008 Spain World Cup 2010 Spain Euro 2012

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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