• World Cup

Pain for Spain as stars face the axe

ESPN staff
June 19, 2014
Chile end Spanish dream

Xabi Alonso conceded Spain's dominance of world football is over after the holders suffered a shock early exit from the World Cup.

Spain were beaten 2-0 by Chile on Wednesday and cannot reach the knockout stage after their 5-1 thrashing by the Netherlands in their opening game.

Alonso had played down speculation that Spain's stars were past their best before their defeat to Chile, but the Real Madrid midfielder now admits his nation is facing the end of an era.

"We didn't know how to maintain our hunger or that conviction needed to win a tournament," Alonso said.

The mighty have fallen

Is this it for Spain? © Getty Images
  • After two European Championships and a World Cup, after producing the greatest tactical innovation in international football since the Dutch gave us "Total Football" in 1974 and after defying time and making us believe they could renew themselves organically and internally, this is it.
  • What next for Spain? A long stretch of self-analysis. A few changes and a return, with a partially changed cast and a tweaked script. And without the divinity earned in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
  • Read more from Gabriele Marcotti here

"Normally cycles come to an end after a defeat. Maybe it would be best to think about making changes."

Those changes could be imminent with Iker Casillas unsure over whether he has played his last game for Spain.

The goalkeeper came under fire for his performance in goal against the Netherlands and many were expecting him to be dropped for the Chile game.

He kept his place, however, only to produce another disappointing display in which he was at fault for Chile's second goal when he punched Alexis Sanchez's free-kick straight to Charles Aranguiz, who toe-poked the ball home.

"Its difficult to explain what happened," Casillas said. "Sorry to the fans. We are those responsible. It is not the day to start blaming or changing."

When asked if this could be his last game for his country, the goalkeeper replied: "I don't know, I really don't know."

Manager Vicente Del Bosque, whose own future is in doubt, admitted his side's premature exit was fully merited but has tried to hold off the clamour for an overhaul of the squad.

"This not the moment to weigh up retirements - bit-by-bit decisions can be made," he said.

"When something negative happens in the World Cup there are consequences. But there is lot of time to think about what's best for Spanish football. These players have given a lot. During the 25 days we've been together, how they have worked, their spirit, I would not have believed this would happen.

"In these days we have had since the Netherlands game, we have had many positive messages from fans. Today is a sad day for those who have enjoyed all the successes of this team. And for us who have suffered it personally."

Spain needed at least a point to keep their hopes of advancing out of their group alive. However, Chile outperformed their opponents on the night, and Aranguiz's strike, after Eduardo Vargas had opened the scoring, saw them secure all three points.

The result means Spain are the first World Cup holders - having won in 2010 - to be eliminated in the following edition after just their second game and manager Del Bosque admitted it was a deserved exit.

"We deserved to go out. But the team showed character today, kept going and were a bit unlucky with the goals," Del Bosque said. "We all tried, but we were not as good as both teams we played.

"It hurts, but in today's game we were a bit timid. We had a bit more play in second half, but not enough to even up the score.

"We thought we had a very good chance, good players. But the reality was different. The second half against Netherlands and the first half today was low in every way.

"Chile made it very uncomfortable for us in first half. They sat back a bit more in the second. That was why game was different. Chile were as we expected - their attitude and the tremendous physicality they have."

Iker Casillas does not know if he has played his last game for Spain © Getty Images
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