Spain Forced to Rebuild After World Cup Exit

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Iniesta farewell to the Spanish national team (FEF)

(WFI) Spain’s elimination from the World Cup means the end of an era.

After their loss to Russia on Sunday, the Spaniards will finally dismantle what was left of the team that 10 years ago blitzed the football world by winning the 2008 Euro, the 2010 World Cup and the following 2012 Euro championships consecutively.

Andres Iniesta has already a confirmed that he played his last game for Spain after his country’s defeat in Moscow on penalty shoot-outs .

Iniesta is 34 and a few weeks ago already hinted about stepping aside from La Roja following the Russian tournament. On Sunday after coming off the bench in Spain's exit, he reuterated his plans for international retirement

"This was my last game for Spain," Iniesta announced from the stadium’s mixed zone. "A marvellous spell is over. Sometimes the end is not as you dreamed it."

With 131 appearances, Iniesta was Spain's fourth-most-capped player, behind Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Xavi Hernandez.

Iniesta now will embark into a Japanese adventure after committing to play for Vissel Kobe next season. The former Barcelona captain leaves the Spanish national team with 13 international goals in his career, including the winner of the 2010 World Cup final against Holland.

Gerard Pique has also played his final match with Spain. Back as January the Barcelona defender said would be retiring after the Russian World Cup after being the target of continuous harassment from the Spanish fans in part due to his political views on the Catalan Independence movement.

David Silva is another member of Spain’s World Champion squad  that seems to have played his last game with his country. The Manchester City midfielder has not announced his international retirement, but after a very disappointing performance in Russia, nothing seems to suggest he will once again feature for the national team.

Sergio Ramos will take his time to decide if he continues as the captain of Spain while another distinguished member of the team's old winning days, Sergio Busquets, also has his future with La Roja on hold.

Spain leaves Russia is disarray. Some say its exit was an accident waiting to happen given that two days before the tournament Julen Lopetegui was sacked for failing to tell his federation about his move to Real Madrid after World Cup, and Fernando Hierro was rushed into the coaching post. Lopetegui was fired only weeks after having extended his contract to coach Spain.

The Spanish media blamed Hierro for the World Cup debacle. Reports claim the former national team director showed lack of football sharpness and inventiveness when choosing teams, as well as failures in team management and when making substitutions during the games. His critics claim that Hierro based his decisions on avoiding problems with the veterans, although in the last game he surprised when Iniesta started on the bench against the Russians.

Hierro was also blamed for not changing the style of play of his team when needed. Possession is great, they claim, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re not creating scoring chances. The feeling of this team was that tiki-taka has turned stale without the truly special talents that marked the team in 2010. Hierro has admitted his faults:

“I’m not going to start laying blame at the feet of other people. I took on this role out of a sense of responsibility, because I felt it was necessary, and I accepted it with all its consequences. I don’t avoid blame. We are leaving this World Cup without losing a single match, and that is a fact. A penalty shoot-out is basically a lottery, and we weren’t lucky,” the Spanish coach said.

Meanwhile the man who made the decision to remove Lopetegui on the eve of the World Cup has stood by his move. Spain’s Football Federation president Luis Rubiales still believes changing coaches 48 hours before the World Cup was the right move.

"I haven't regretted that decision or any other because they are decisions made with responsibility, conviction and values, and it was not a sporting decision," Rubiales said.

Perhaps Koke has explained better than anybody what happened to Spain in Russia. The Atletico de Madrid player concluded after his team's elimination from the tournament “ When we lost Lopetegui, we lost our leader.”

Homepage photo: @FEF

By INSIDER Javier Monne

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