Spain’s blessing in disguise

The crowd at the Maracana roared and cheered as their national hero Neymar powered a thunderous shot into the roof of the net. The celebrations at half-time may have seemed premature, but the full extent of the damage was realised when Spain subsequently failed to chase down an irreversible scoreline.

It was a thoroughly deserved defeat at the hands of a Brazilian side ranked at a 'lowly' 22nd in the world, and it may serve as a foreshadowing of the tough competition Spain face if they are to successfully defend their World Cup next summer.

The fact is Spain went into the Confederations Cup as favourites, and rightly so. The last three times Spain qualified for a major international competition, they had walked out victorious.

However the story this time around was highly unpredictable, as La Roja were thoroughly outplayed. Brazil’s pressing game was executed to perfection as midfielders  Xavi and Andres Iniesta were denied both time and space to thread passes through to lone striker Fernando Torres, who remained anonymous throughout the match.

Subsequently, as a result of such a lacklustre performance, questions focused on the capabilities of an aging La Roja squad have been raised, with Vicente del Bosque’s team selections questioned.

Spain took a massive hit when Xabi Alonso was forced out of the squad due to a groin injury. And with that injury came a change in formation. The ‘double pivot’ which Del Bosque had previously favoured was scrapped in favour of a Barcelona styled 4-3-3 formation. His move was applauded by numerous sections of the media and it allowed Spain to play more like Barcelona.

Xavi was well below his best, perhaps a signal that age is finally catching up to him. Yesterday, Spain heavily relied on Iniesta's creativity, who at times was guilty of overplaying. The defense was fragile and ill-disciplined. Not to mention sterile in attack with a seemingly absent Torres.

Previous  calls for the integration of younger and more rejuvenated players into the national set-up such as Thiago, Montoya, Isco and Carvajal, will return. Their work this summer at Under-21 level suggested that they are able to play to a similar quality and offer additional flair, an aspect of play which was evidently lacking for La Roja in Brazil.

Also the evident lack of tactical flexibility, a plan B, was absent. Both Spain and Barcelona in the past have failed to proactively address this issue and it may prove detrimental to La Roja's pursuit of long-term success.

While we are less than one year away from the commencement of World Cup, there are still certainly many aspects which need refining. La Roja still need to qualify, but their failure to obtain the allusive Confederations Cup should serve as a worthy reminder that the job is far from complete – Spain have proved they no longer are the formidable force they once were.