SOCCER

Spain’s Euro 2016 exit: the end of an era?

Coach Vicente Del Bosque likely to step down as national side prepares for Russia 2020 World Cup

Spain's national soccer coach, Vicente del Bosque.
Spain's national soccer coach, Vicente del Bosque.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

Slowly and carefully, one step at a time, Vicente del Bosque made his way through the darkness down the steps into the press room of the Stade de France. He then walked up onto the podium to sit down for what will probably be his last appearance before the media as coach of the Spanish national soccer team.

Spain will be heading home from France early after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Italy on Monday night, failing to make it out of the knockout stage and bringing to an end one of most exciting and glorious periods in Spanish soccer: eight years that produced magnificent victories and epic defeats. From 2008 to 2012, Spain won the World Cup and the European Championship. Then, in 2014, the side was knocked out of the Brazil World Cup, and now, two years later, has been sent home early from Euro 2016. But during both periods, Del Bosque stuck to the tiki taka passing and possession style to the bitter end.

After twiddling with his mustache and coughing nervously a few times, Del Bosque prepared to face the music.

Del Bosque has always stuck to the ‘tiki taka’ passing and possession style, right to the bitter end

“Well,” he began, “I think we were a bit timid in the first half of the game. We didn’t play as boldly or decisively as we are used to doing. We were more aggressive in the second half, exposing ourselves to the risk of a counterattack, but it brought us closer to a draw.”

It wasn’t long before the first question was asked about Del Bosque’s future.

“That is a matter I will take up with the president when the time is right,” replied Del Bosque, referring to Ángel María Villar, head of the Spanish Football Federation (FEF). Villar has said he wants Del Bosque to stay on, but the pundits agree that Spain’s early exit has almost certainly hastened the 65-year-old’s departure.

Classification for the 2018 World Cup, which will be held in Russia, begins in September, and elections are due to decide on a new FEF president before the end of the year. If Villar is replaced, then any appointment he makes now could be overturned by his successor.

“I must confess that Spain has been inferior to Italy, our players have always been hard workers, and we had a few chances, but Italy was better,” said Del Bosque, explaining his side’s lackluster performance.

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Del Bosque played down talk that Spain has come to the end of a cycle. “This isn’t the end because this or that player retires, we have a lot of good players coming up to choose from,” he insisted.

Gerard Piqué, the Barcelona defender who has played for the national side since 2009, also admitted that Spain wasn’t up to scratch: “This side isn’t as good as the one we had that won the World Cup and the European Championship. There are some promising players, but we just aren’t as good and we have to accept that. Now the challenge is to get us in shape for Russia,” he concluded.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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