Spain have won back-to-back European titles, with a World Cup sandwiched in between but is Spanish football now on the decline?
There’s very little doubt that Barcelona have become the model example of how to play football at club level, with Spain the model example of how to win major trophies at international level.
However, a couple of cracks may be starting to appear, which offer inspiration to club and international sides all over the world that may have feared the Spaniards would rule the game indefinitely.
Finland grabbed a late equaliser in the recent 1-1 draw against Spain in the latest round of World Cup qualifiers. Regardless of the stats for that match, it’s another example that sides are working out how to play against the Spanish style of football.
Despite the fact that Spain have three clubs in the last eight of the Champions League, there have been examples from the group stage and La Liga, that have shown how these dominate pass and move based sides can be beaten.
The most common way and principle is how Celtic managed to beat Barcelona at home during the group stage; park the bus.
This is a tactic that Barcelona, Real Madrid and the Spanish side have all grown used to but it’s effective, especially when a side deploys great defensive discipline and maintains that over 90 minutes.
It forces these Spanish based sides to think outside the box, which is difficult for them because they have grown so used to play and winning in a certain way, steamrolling any side that tries to put up any sort of resistance.
Real Madrid’s inconsistency in La Liga this season shows that the basic values of football can be effective against these mega sides.
Jose Mourinho’s men have been outwitted by teams that have far less quality and far fewer resources at their disposal, which has seen them fall 13 points behind Barcelona just a single season after winning the title.
There are also worrying signs which have been demonstrated emphatically by Malaga, a side that invested heavily into their side using external cash, when they were not ready to do so.
While other teams in England, France, Italy and Germany are also spending big money regularly, it has not been done prematurely, which has prevented similar situations like the one which has unfolded at Malaga, a team trying to punch way above their weight.
Spanish football is still at a very high level and there’s little doubt that their current generation of players, will probably go down as one of the best sets ever. However, the smallest of cracks have started to show up.
In a world where these sides dominate in the way they have done, that is a sign for other teams to try and increase the size of those cracks as they find new and more efficient ways to counter tactics and shift the power.
Are Barcelona as good as they were three or four years ago? Are Spain as good as they were last summer?
image: © nbabaian