After conquering all comers between 2008 and 2012 on the international circuit, Spain have come back down to earth in recent major tournaments. La Roja were sensational over a four-year period first under Luis Aragones and then Vicente Del Bosque, winning the European Championships twice and lifting the World Cup for the first time in 2010.
Spain mesmerized the world with their tiki-taka style, preventing any team from contending with them on the field. It resulted in a period of dominance that will be remembered for the ages. La Roja have fallen back to the pack since and their semi-final defeat at the hands of Italy in Euro 2020 has highlighted their issues.
Spain was once one of the most dominant sides in the world, reaching the finals of the Euros in back-to-back championships between 2008 and 2012, winning the crown too. Failing to reach the final in 2020 raises the point that La Roja has fallen behind not only Italy but also England in the European hierarchy of teams. Now, the football community looks towards Italy – England betting as fans try to predict who will win at the final and claim the trophy as their own. Although, neither team has experienced the amount of success enjoyed by Spain in the competition throughout the ages.
The tiki-taka style remains at the foundation of Spain’s play. There are several talented players in the heart of the midfield that has allowed La Roja to retain their effective system of possession-based football. Pedri is an intriguing talent on the rise and was right at home in a major competition at the age of just 18. Koke, Marcos Llorente, Dani Olmo, Sergio Busquets and Rodri are also exceptional players. Their use of the ball is arguably second to none in the world. Whisper it quietly, but Spain has not missed the presence of Andres Iniesta and Xavi in their midfield following their retirements after illustrious careers at the top of the game.
The player they have missed is David Villa. During Spain’s dominant period, Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva, and Cesc Fabregas would knock the ball around the field and pass their opponents to death. Villa was on hand to provide the finishing touch more often than not. If it was not Villa, then Fernando Torres was the man on the spot. La Roja’s problem has not been cultivating players to pass the ball around the pitch, their issues have come in the final third.
Alvaro Morata has become an easy target for supporters to criticize. He does miss chances, but the forward is the best player that Spain has as a central striker. Luis Enrique can look with envy at England and France, who boast Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe in their ranks. Even if they are not fit and firing the Three Lions have Marcus Rashford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Mason Greenwood, and Danny Ings should their depth be tested.
Spain’s tiki-taka success has created a plethora of talented midfield players who can keep the ball on a string and thread the needle, but there is a dearth of players to finish off those opportunities. Whereas after 2012 international teams were ripping up their formulas and copying the Spain mantra, La Roja may have to look at England and France to compete at major tournaments once more. At the moment, there is no easy route back to the top for Enrique and his team unless they can unearth a proven goalscorer.