Spain must turn to Man Utd and Chelsea stars to lead reboot
It had to happen sometime, but few would have expected Spain’s era of dominance to end in such disastrous fashion, with La Furia Roja the joint-first side eliminated from World Cup 2014.
A 5-1 loss to the Netherlands was followed by a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chile, both sides beaten by Spain en route to winning the World Cup in 2010, and two teams who have staked real claims to be considered contenders themselves this time around.
Having both qualified for the knockout stages, Netherlands are 8/1 to win the tournament, with Chile available at a tempting 22/1.
Meanwhile Spain must try and save some fave with a win over Australia in their last game, a side they are 4/11 to beat.
There was more schadenfreude than sympathy for Spain, who gained plenty of envious enemies in their run of two European Championships and a World Cup since 2008, but they have the players to return to the summit of world football in the coming years.
Xavi, consigned to the bench for the crucial clash with Chile, and Iker Casillas, who must have wished he had been as well, are perhaps the two most obvious players that will need replacing.
To do this, Spain should look to the Premier League, rather than La Liga, and install Manchester United’s David de Gea and new Chelsea signing Cesc Fabregas in their first team.
De Gea has overcome a sticky start in England to become one of the best keepers in the league and perhaps the only challenger to Thibaut Courtois’ status as the finest young stopper in the world.
The 23-year-old was one of the few bright sparks in United’s season and would perhaps have been in line to replace Casillas for Spain’s dead rubber with Australia if not for injury.
Casillas’ has garnered 155 caps for Spain and won everything there is to win. His influence should not be understated, but De Gea is the man to take La Furia Roja forward now.
Even harder to replace will be Xavi, who has been the beating heart of Spain’s tiki-taka style for so long.
Fabregas was meant to be the man to take the reins from Xavi at Barcelona, but too often the former Arsenal player was pushed out of position as Los Blaugrana stuck with the veteran.
Chelsea should return Fabregas to the role where he flourished for so long at the Gunners, as a central midfielder, where he should also play for Spain.
The 27-year-old has registered at least 10 league assists for eight straight seasons and is one of only two men in recent times to rack up 20 in one campaign. The other is Xavi.
De Gea and Fabregas are just two of the many England-based players who will be key in a new-look Spain, but they perhaps face the hardest job in replacing two bona fide legends of international football.
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