Paralysis by analysis. This was ultimately the downfall of Vicente Del Bosque. Of late, Spain has had an embarrassment of riches in soccer talent. And instead of a blessing, this ultimately proved to be a curse in disguise.
Two years ago at the European Championship we saw signs of this. Cracks. Del Bosque insisted on constantly tinkering with Spain’s starting eleven repeatedly substituting Cesc Fabregas for Fernando Torres, despite the latter’s superlative play. Del Bosque’s incessant micromanagement of Spain’s line-up came to a head during the semi-final against Portugal when he inexplicably sat both Torres and Fabregas and instead played Alvaro Negredo in a move that almost ended Spain’s magnificent run. Negredo was completely ineffectual, but they escaped by the seat of their pants with a 0-0 win in a shootout. Spain’s demolition of Italy in the final, a game that included Torres netting a goal and an assist that landed him the Golden Shoe as the tournament’s top scorer, glossed over the obvious cracks that were emerging in Del Bosque’s management style.
One year ago at the Confederations Cup Spain once again looked poised to triumph. David Villa and Fernando Torres once again shined scoring seven goals between them in a single game during the group phase. However, this performance failed to impress Del Bosque as he chose to bench David Villa for the semi-final against Italy. Despite their ineffectual play, Spain once-again escaped with a 0-0 shootout win in a semi-final. However, Spain’s 3-0 drubbing at the hand’s of the host Brazilians demonstrated that Del Bosque`s madness had finally cost Spain at a championship level.
Flash forward to this year’s World Cup. Del Bosque again decides to start an unproven and untested Diego Costa over his proven heroes David Villa and Fernando Torres. The result this time was disastrous as Spain was routed 5-1 by The Netherlands in their opening fixture. Diego Costa’s only contribution was an abhorrent dive that led to Spain’s only goal via a penalty. Spain was completely ineffectual and chance-less while Del Bosque only utilized Villa and Torres to warm his bench.
In Spain’s second group game versus Chile the stubborn Del Bosque once again decided to start the ineffectual Costa and La Furia Roja was eliminated from the World Cup falling 2-0. Costa was replaced by Torres late in the game and exited to a chorus of boos and jeers from both the Spanish fans and the host Brazilians who have their own reasons to despise him.
In Spain’s final group game the old buffoon Del Bosque decided to actually start Villa and Torres! Thanks Coach! And predictably both David Villa and Fernando Torres scored impressive goals as Spain cruised to a 3-0 victory. Too late Del Bosque. Too late.
The story of this World Cup for Spain will always drift to what might have been. Could Spain have defended their title if they had had a coach who was not drunk with power? We will never know. David Villa broke down in tears today after being substituted. His tears are the tears of a nation. A nation that was denied a fair chance at defending its World Cup title. One thing we do know is this: fire Del Bosque. Fire him. Fire him now.