Four Reasons Spain Failed At The World Cup

World Cup Group B


Geoffrey Chaucer penned the phrase “all good things must come to an end” which is rather fitting after Spain’s shock exit from this World Cup.

Indeed Marca’s front cover today shows Andres Iniesta leaving the Maracana pitch below the headline “The End”.

Chaucer was also responsible for “nothing ventured, nothing gained” which is more appropriate to Holland and Chile’s performances against the European and World champions.

They attacked the seemingly previous infallible Spanish team, where before teams faced them with trepidation and awe. There are a number of reasons for Spain’s ignominious exit from the tournament, most pertinently…

A tired, ageing squad

The bulk of Spain’s starting XI against Chile have had an exhausting season. All but two – David Silva and César Azpilicueta – were drafted from the ranks of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, who’ve just completed possibly the most intense La Liga title race in recent memory.

Furthermore, Real and Atletico’s players also competed in a Champions League final just three weeks ago. The average age of the Spanish squad is almost 28, one of the oldest of the 32 finalists.

Despite two-thirds of the players at this year’s finals competing at a World Cup for the first time, the inverse is true for Spain – with over two-thirds of their squad having made at least one previous World Cup experience. There’s a lot to be said for experience but perhaps Vicente del Bosque has remained loyal to some of his more experienced charges for too long.


Indeed del Bosque’s loyalty to keeper Iker Casillas may have cost him dearly. The Real Madrid star had a wretched performance against the Dutch where he was at fault for at least two of the goals.

The Spanish boss did drop Xavi and Gerard Pique for their clash against Chile but stubbornly refused to countenance replacing Casillas with Pepe Reina. His allegiance proved misplaced with Casillas’ ill-judged punch gifting the Chileans their second goal.

His error-strewn tournament follows another high profile mistake for Real in the Champions League final and goes some way to justifying Jose Mourinho’s controversial decision to drop the keeper while boss at Madrid.

Diego Costa

Much of Spain’s success has been down to their “false number nine” system and the shoehorning of new Chelsea signing Diego Costa into the side now seems misguided.

Costa is a powerful target man and had only made two appearances for Spain prior to the tournament, surely not enough time to integrate an ill-suited player into a pivotal role.

As it transpired, the striker failed to get a shot on target in the opening two games and looked out of place in the seemingly out-dated tiki-taka tactical system.


No team since Brazil in 1962 have managed to successfully defend a World Cup title, and Spain were merely the latest country to suffer this curse.

Indeed in recent years many holders have failed miserably at the group stage of the following tournament. 2006 champions Italy were unceremoniously dumped out of the finals four years later in South Africa, finishing bottom of Group F after draws with New Zealand and Paraguay left them propping up the table.

Likewise, France entered the 2002 tournament as holders and one of the favourites. They finished bottom of their group with one point, having lost to Senegal and Denmark and failing to score a solitary goal.