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 Posted by Iain Macintosh
Jun 18, 2014

Bell tolls for tiki-taka and Spain

ESPN FC's Andre Kfouri highlights the end of an era for Spain and speaks to what could have been a Spanish dream realized.

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for tiki-taka. It tolls for Vicente del Bosque and Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Diego Costa's original passport.

There will be a lot of this in the coming days as the world picks through the bones of the Spanish empire and a cold revisionist wave sweeps through their memories, wiping out recollections of a once-held belief that La Roja could do no wrong and that everyone, everywhere, should follow their lead. Soon, the only creed worth holding will be that of the counter-attack. At least until such time that we all change our minds again.

Spain were not dumped out of the World Cup because of a flawed philosophy. That philosophy didn't look so bad when they were on the brink of a 2-0 halftime lead over the Netherlands, denied only by the outstretched fingers of Jasper Cillessen.

Spain lost that game because they collapsed like a cheap tent in a gale when the Dutch piled on the pressure. They lost to the irrepressible Chileans because their reaction to that tireless high press of theirs was to give the ball away, put their hands over their eyes and scream in terror. They have met that style of football before in the past six years and they always prevailed because they passed the ball quickly and accurately amongst themselves until their tormentors were exhausted and ready to be picked off at leisure.

- ESPN FC TV: Chile loss signals end of era for Spain
- Marcotti: Spain -- The mighty have fallen
- Burley: Rooney should have point to prove

Ultimately, Spain weren't hungry enough, they weren't focused enough and, when they were in trouble, they weren't brave enough. And they went out because they were placed in a group where that sort of thing was unforgivable.

But this isn't the end for the Spanish. Just look at that squad. David de Gea, Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez, Sergio Busquets, Koke and Diego Costa are all 25 years old or younger. The likes of Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Gerard Deulofeu didn't even make the cut. It's their time now.

An era has ended, a generation has fallen and so on and so forth. But Spain aren't finished. This is just a chance for the next generation.

-- This was already a wonderful World Cup, but Australia's spirited battle against the Netherlands on Wednesday was a new high point. The tournament is now approaching levels of brilliance that make you wonder if it might be worth just quitting football altogether after the final, safe in the knowledge that it can never be this good again.

AustraliaAustralia
NetherlandsNetherlands
2
3
ESPN, ESPN3 FT
Match 20
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Australia's gutsy start was inspiring, but then came something that stunned the watching world, a breathtaking moment that no pundit could have predicted: Someone made contact with Arjen Robben and the Dutchman stayed on his feet. And then he went on to score a goal.

In every corner of the globe, from the penthouses of Manhattan to the townships of South Africa, parents placed their hands upon the shoulders of their offspring and whispered, "Remember this day, my child. Tell your grandchildren that you were here. For this was the day that Robben did not dive. And then he went on to score a goal."

While understandably disappointed, the Socceroos have nothing to hang their heads about after this World Cup.

In Dutch government offices in The Hague, bright red phones rang off the hook as world leaders called in with their congratulations. "Let it be written in the annals of world history," said one world leader, "that the planet came together as one, upon the day that Robben did not dive. And then he went on to to score a goal."

Tim Cahill also scored a very good goal, but the Netherlands won 3-2.

-- Cameroon are out of the World Cup, but congratulations to Alex Song who discovered the most inefficient method of causing pain to another human being and was quickly sent off for his troubles. For reasons known only to himself, Song ran up behind Mario Mandzukic, held out his elbow as if he was about to test the temperature of a child's bath and then awkwardly boshed the Croatian forward between the shoulder blades with it. If you've decided that you're going to lash out at a player, you might as well do it properly, stuffing a frying pan down your sock and really making a name for yourself. Barcelona are reportedly trying to sell Song this summer and were rather hoping that he would impress in Brazil and drive the price up. After this, their best hope of getting rid of him is to drive him out into the Spanish countryside, kick him out of the door and then drive off quickly.

-- If you thought the fallout for Spain's exit was something, just wait and see what happens if England lose to Uruguay. Defeat won't necessarily mean the end of Roy Hodgson's team, two more Italian wins and a large victory over Costa Rica would do the job, but it might make Wayne Rooney's position untenable. By all accounts, Hodgson won't just keep faith with the disappointing Manchester United man, he'll shunt Raheem Sterling out to the right to accommodate him. If the gamble pays off, England's qualification will be in their own hands. If it doesn't, Rooney is likely to take the flak.

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