Source: TheRealEdem via Twitter
Spain were one of the high-profile teams to make a premature exit from the 2018 World Cup, crashing out of the competition in the round-of-16 stage against Russia. La Roja had a nightmare start to the tournament when Julen Lopetegui announced his intention to leave his role as head coach at the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup. The Spanish Football Federation acted to sack Lopetegui just two days before their first match, replacing him with Fernando Hierro.
Spain were denied victory in their opening match of the tournament against Portugal by heroics from Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick, including a late free-kick to secure a point for the Selecao. Matters did not improve a great deal from then on as Hierro’s men edged their way past Iran before needing a stoppage-time strike to avoid defeat to Morroco.
Their round-of-16 clash against Russia was, on paper, a simple passage into the last eight of the 2018 World Cup. However, La Roja were ponderous in attack after taking the lead through a Sergei Ignashevich own goal and duly paid the price when Artem Dzyuba scored from the spot. Spain struggled to break down the Russia defence as the match headed to penalties. In the shootout, Koke and Aspas lost their composure to send their side crashing out of the competition.
Spain now have a challenge on their hands to find a permanent head coach to replace Lopetegui. There will be no shortage of candidates, although whether he will be in place by the time Spain face off against England in their opening UEFA Nations League contest remains to be seen. La Roja are backed at 6/5 in the latest international football betting to beat the Three Lions in their contest at Wembley Stadium, highlighting the quality the new manager will have available to him.
However, the bigger question for the head coach will be whether to adjust Spain’s style of play. The tiki-taka passing game was the driving force behind their two European Championship triumphs along with their achievement of the ultimate glory at the 2010 World Cup. Xavi and Andres Iniesta at the peak of their powers were the architects of their success, with Fernando Torres and David Villa operating in the final third. The system lifted them head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, securing the world crown for the first time in the history of the nation.
Source: BrunoPizzaro10 via Twitter
The issue ahead of the new coach is that the current crop of players does not have the same ability. Isco, Marco Asensio and Koke flattered to deceive against Russia. Iniesta made an impact off the bench, but even he could not unlock the host nation’s backline. The depth of options behind Diego Costa was not overwhelming as Aspas has been hit-and-miss throughout his career, while Rodrigo Moreno has hardly been prolific. The central striker has been a concern for a while and could be a huge concern looking ahead, with only Alvaro Morata and Inaki Williams available behind for now. Even the players in the under-21 side are not in the mould of a central forward.
With Asensio, Saul Niguez, Koke, Thiago Alcantara and Isco, there is an embarrassment of riches in the middle of the park. However, Spain could be entering a situation where ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. They have a lot of players to make chances, but not many to convert them. Germany is another example of a team that are crying out for a central striker. For once, both of the former world champions are looking at teams such as England with Harry Kane and France with Kylian Mbappe with envy. It’s a problem the new head coach needs to resolve quickly to get La Roja back on form.