Dutch debacle puts Spain in crisis mode | South China Morning Post
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  • Apr 19, 2015
  • Updated: 1:10pm
World Cup 2014

Dutch debacle puts Spain in crisis mode

Country's worst defeat in 64 years leaves Vicente Del Bosque with soul-searching to do after years of success

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 June, 2014, 12:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 June, 2014, 12:18am

With one disastrous result, Spain's World Cup campaign and overall footballing identity is suddenly facing a crisis.

A 5-1 loss to the Netherlands to open group B left many wondering whether the team who have dominated world football since 2008 have finally lost their edge - and whether the core philosophy can survive unchanged.

Spain also lost their first game at the 2010 World Cup, but that was a 1-0 defeat against Switzerland in a match they dominated. This time they were humiliated, and the loss may have dealt a psychological blow that coach Vicente del Bosque only has five days to address before a must-win match against Chile.

Normally if you beat Spain, it's 1-0. Five-one is not normal because they are amazing players, with a very good head coach … all very experienced
Bruno Martins Indi

"It's not normal, I don't know what to say about it. Normally we always manage our defence well but we were weak when we needed to stop [Arjen] Robben and [Robin] van Persie," he said.

The former Real Madrid coach also has plenty of other questions to address. Does he stick with the core group who have delivered so much success (namely two European Championships and the World Cup in South Africa)? And does he need to give the nation's famed "tiki-taka" system a revamp?

"Normally if you beat Spain, it's 1-0," Netherlands defender Bruno Martins Indi said. "Five-one is not normal because they are amazing players, with a very good head coach … all very experienced."

Spain's midfield of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and David Silva faded badly over the second half at the Arena Fonte Nova. Goalkeeper Iker Casillas' mistakes cost Spain at least two goals, while defenders Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos were guilty of errors at the others.

It was, all told, the country's worst competitive defeat in 64 years.

"We have to be a team, that's what made us world champions and two-time European champions," striker Fernando Torres said. "You can't point fingers, we have to learn from our errors."

Torres replaced Diego Costa in the second half but he was largely ineffective, with Spain's strikers failing to generate many opportunities.

The Chelsea striker added: "There's no reason to change our style of play. In South Africa the same happened [losing their first match] and we ended up champions. I have a lot of faith in this team."

Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal was criticised before the tournament for being too defensive for a nation that loves attacking play. His decision to field five defenders against Spain proved a masterstroke, though.

Even he was stunned by the margin of victory. "To be quite honest, we did not expect it," he said. "This has to do with strategy and the dedication of the players to execute with conviction."

The Dutch performance shocked even casual fans on the second day of World Cup, showing why Manchester United were so keen to sign Van Gaal to rebuild the storied club.

The 62-year-old Dutchman starts work at Old Trafford when the Netherlands leave Brazil. If they keep playing this way, he could keep the club's fans waiting until mid-July.

"If you see how he prepared us, and how he predicted the game would go, and you see how it went - unbelievable," said Van Persie, whose stunning header to equalise just before half-time turned the tide of the match and lit up social media accounts around the world. "It went exactly as the entire technical staff predicted."


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