About five minutes after Iago Aspas’ penalty spun off Igor Akinfeev’s boot and over the top of the crossbar, Carrusel Deportivo had posted a vote on their Twitter feed to find out who was to blame for Spain’s failure in Russia. The options were the manager, the players, the federation, or simply bad luck. After more than 15,000 votes so far, the federation is in the lead with 50% of the votes.
EN EL REPARTO DE RESPONSABILIDADES DE LA ELIMINACIÓN DE #ESP…
¿A quién señalas?
— Carrusel Deportivo (@carrusel) July 1, 2018
The blame game for Spain’s failure had begun quickly.
It dragged on through the evening and into the early hours.
Manu Carreño’s opening monologue on the popular El Larguero podcast pretty much summed up the mood of the nation.
“And now what?”
“What do we say now?”
“And above all, what do we do now?”
He went on to suggest that rather than Russia – the team ranked 70th in the FIFA rankings – being responsible, Spain had effectively knocked themselves out of the tournament.
It isn’t the first time either. After three magical tournaments in a row between 2008 and 2012, Spain have gone out with a whimper in the last three.
The difference now compared with the exits in 2014 in Brazil and two years ago in France is that a question has started to be asked with increasing frequency. A question which has fundamental implications for the future of the Spanish national team:
Does the style of play which led them to the most glorious period of their history actually still work?
Manu Carreño’s assessment that what Spain were attempting yesterday wasn’t tiki-taka as we once knew it was shared by others, including Guillem Balague on BBC Five Live.
"Welcome to 45 minutes of rubbish tiki-taka football, this is just unbearable!"
— BBC 5 live Sport (@5liveSport) July 1, 2018
Spain passed the ball more than 1,000 times yesterday. But how many of those passes were decisive? How many of them actually opened up the Russian defence?
The suspicion in the Spanish media is that Spain is attempting to play in a style that no longer suits the players that they have. Xavi has gone. So has Xabi Alonso. And last night Iniesta decided to call it a day too.
It also seems that teams have figured out that while they might not see any of the ball when they play Spain, they won’t be under too much pressure as long as they keep their shape. Other teams no longer seem intimidated by the Spanish style of play as they were several years ago.
The blame game will go on for a while yet. Fingers are being pointed in plenty of directions. As the Carrusel Deportivo vote results suggest, plenty feel that Luis Rubiales should shoulder a lot of the blame for sacking Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament. However, most of the analysts on the El Larguero podcast agreed that the result wouldn’t have been too different had he not been sacked.
Of all the players in Russia, only Isco appears to have come out of the tournament with his reputation unharmed. David Silva was largely anonymous, while David de Gea’s struggles are well documented.
A lot of questions are being asked of this Spain team. Finding the answers might take a while.