Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 20th 2014 Contents A74
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, June 20, 2014
RIO DE JANEIRO---An unexpect-
edly early World Cup exit has left
Spanish football searching for a
way to recapture its past success,
while transitioning to a future
without some of the players
responsible for that former glory.
A 2-0 loss to Chile on Wednes-
day left Spain without hope of
advancing to the second round,
and to become the first defending
champion to be assured of elim-
ination after just two group games.
Monday s Group A finale against
Australia could be either a send-
off to its "tiki-taka" style of play,
or a chance to make changes to a
team that arrived in Brazil after
winning consecutive European
Championships, either side of the
2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"We reached the highest of
heights and now we ve reached
the lowest," said Andres Iniesta,
who scored the extra-time winner
in the 2010 final victory over the
Spain s players gave a number
of reasons for their surprising
capitulation, citing fatigue, a lack
of work ethic and commitment,
and waning desire. Long and mixed
seasons for Spain s core group of
Real Madrid and Barcelona players
also seems to have caught up with
the team in Brazil.
Casillas guided Madrid to
Champions League and Copa del
Rey triumphs, but has been a part-
time keeper at the club, whose
long and emotional season may
have taken a toll on the normally
reliable Alonso and Sergio Ramos.
Iniesta, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Jordi
Alba and Pedro Rodriguez all had
a patchy season at Barcelona,
which finished without a major
trophy for the first time since
"There could be a link since
there were a lot of players from
Barca who didn t do well here,"
Pedro said. "It was all very tough,
here and Barcelona, and now we
have to evaluate it all."
Coach Vicente del Bosque has
called for a thorough---but
patient---review over the summer
before Euro 2016 qualifying begins.
Xavi seems to be the only player
certain to depart after Del Bosque
left perhaps Spain s most impor-
tant player during its recent run
on the bench against Chile.
Xavi watched as Spain s midfield
failed to connect with its forwards,
something the 34-year-old player
provided for the world champions
during its winning run. Xavi, who
has won 26 trophies over a glorious
career, may have also been dis-
tracted as he is reportedly set to
play in Qatar.
Casillas and Alonso may also be
under pressure to step aside after
terrible performances in Brazil.
"The blame should be shared,
starting with myself," Casillas
"Altogether we weren t in the
best shape," Alonso said. "We
weren t at the level we needed to
be and we deserve to be out."
The good news for Spain is that
replacements are ready if the vet-
erans step aside.
Bayern Munich midfielder Thi-
ago Alcantara s absence to injury
was a major blow for Spain, as he
can be seen as a natural successor
Atletico Madrid s Koke replaced
Alonso against Chile and could
have found his future role. There
is also a crop of players from the
Spain squad that won the Euro-
pean Under-21 Championship last
year, including Real Madrid play-
maker Isco and Athletic Bilbao
midfielders Ander Herrera, Iker
Muniain, and Ander Iturraspe.
Goalkeeper David de Gea is also
poised for more playing time after
being called into the team in Brazil.
However, Spain s attack remains
a concern as Brazilian-born Diego
Costa did not provide the firepower
David Villa, Spain s all-time
leading scorer, will retire from
international football after Brazil,
while Torres seems a shell of his
former explosive self. Del Bosque
ignored strikers Fernando Llorente
and Alvaro Negredo despite their
positive club seasons.
"Surely some will stay and some
will not for the next championship,
but there s a great generation com-
ing up, a young generation," Torres
said. "Sometimes these kinds of
failings are good for the future."
Spain looks to future
with keen eye on past
Spain's head coach Vicente Del
Bosque. AP PHOTO
couldn t care less if he s men-
tioned in the same breath as Ney-
mar or Lionel Messi at this World
Cup---as long as he comes away
with the trophy.
Having scored the winning goal
in Italy s 2-1 victory over England
and now getting ready for today s
match against Costa Rica, the tem-
peramental forward has gained
more attention than any other
Azzurri player in Brazil.
"I hope this is Italy s World Cup,
not Mario s. I m not really inter-
ested in being compared with the
big stars," Balotelli said yesterday.
"In the end, it s the squad that
wins. I don t want to be a big star.
I want to win the World Cup.
"Personally, I want to score as
many goals as possible," he said
at the official pre-match news con-
ference. "But the important thing
is that the squad wins and
Wearing a black cap turned
backward and a total of three dia-
mond earrings---two on his right
ear, one on the left---Balotelli was
his usual candid self.
Asked if he minds being the lone
forward in coach Cesare Prandelli s
4-1-4-1 formation, Balotelli
snapped back: "As long as I play."
This is a first World Cup for
Balotelli, who helped lead Italy to
the 2012 European Championship
"This is the biggest event of my
career and I want to give my all,"
he said. "The World Cup is more
important than the Golden Ball,
the Champions League or the
scudetto (Serie A title), so it s
only normal that it creates a spark
inside of you."
Balotelli has made headlines
almost from the moment he landed
in Brazil, first by proposing to his
Belgian girlfriend on a moon-lit
beach in the week leading up to
the England match.
"The proposal had nothing to
do with the World Cup," Balotelli
said. "The proposal would have
occurred even without the World
Balotelli is coming off an up-
and-down club season with AC
Milan and has been the subject of
rampant transfer speculation in
recent weeks. There have been
reports that Arsenal is offering
Milan a €30 million ($40 million)
transfer fee, and a contract for
Balotelli worth 180,000 pounds
(more than $300,000) per week.
"My focus is 100 per cent on
the World Cup," he said. "I don t
know what will happen afterward.
I don t know anything." (AP)
I don't want stardom, I want the Cup
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