In every country death has finality. It arrives and the blinds are drawn. Not in Spain. In Spain they are lifted. Many Spaniards live between walls until the day they die, when they are taken out to the sun.” Federico García Lorca’s words about Spain being “a nation open to death” captured the duality that Spain will draw solace from now, after La Roja’s early exit from the World Cup. After six years of total domination of world football, surpassing even the great Brazilian sides of the 1950s and ’60s, the reign of Spain is finally over, with their worst ever World Cup performance in the only edition in which they were the defending champions. In the end, the lack of youth and hunger for the win cost Spain their place in the sun.
At the Maracanã, Spain deposited their crown. It might be tempting to write obituaries of tiki-taka and perhaps even possession football, but it’s useful to recall the statistics. At Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and World Cup 2010 combined, winners La Roja conceded six goals; they have already let in seven at World Cup 2014. Since the 1994 Cup, this is the first time Spain have conceded two or more goals in more than one match. The 0-2 loss to Chile was Spain’s first back-to-back defeat since October 2006. Spain had won 10 consecutive knock-out games without conceding a goal. In other words, La Roja had put style, symmetry, symbolism and success in one place and gone where no team had ever been. That’s why, even as they ran headlines like “The End”, the Spanish media thanked the footballers, telling them not to be sorry. Even a golden generation has a lifespan, and eras end with defeats.
Their defeat foretold in FC Barcelona’s fall, the aged stars have tough personal and professional decisions to make. But they can rest assured a new generation will rise. To recall Lorca on his matador friend Ignacio Sánchez Mejías’s death: “I sing of his elegance in words that moan, and I remember a sad breeze among the olive trees.”