Andrew Warshaw: Spain’s reign over but what of succession?

Let’s be realistic. Not many of us expected for one moment that one of the greatest dynasties to grace the game would actually be able to clinch an unprecedented fourth straight major crown.

After all, no European country has ever won the World Cup on South American soil. And not since 1962 had the reigning world champions retained the title.

But by the same token, few believed that the reign of Spain would come to such a shuddering halt before the end of the first week – at one of the world’s most iconic stadiums.

Facing being peppered by the red-hot Chileans after being demolished by the Dutch was always going to a tricky must-win encounter. Ultimately it proved far too tough a hurdle as Chile recorded their first competitive victory over Spain – just reward for a breathtaking exercise in attacking intent by a team the host nation themselves will now be anxious to avoid in the last 16.

The obituaries, of course, have only just started for Spain after a defining moment in world football. Quite how they can get themselves up for a meaningless final group fixture against Australia, Lord knows.

Questions will be inevitably be asked about the international futures both of coach Vicente Del Bosque and several of his most trusted players, not least goalkeeper Iker Casillas and midfielders Xavi and Xabi Alonso.

Yes Chile looked good, but should surely not have looked that good. Where was the Spanish drive, penetration and sumptuous one-touch passing, shown in the first half against the Netherlands but totally absent since? Where was the composure many thought would come to their rescue in their hour of need?

In winning Euro 2008, the World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, Spain conceded a total of six goals, only one fewer than they have so far in Brazil.

That tells us a lot.

Barcelona and Real Madrid, for all their breathtaking skill, have one weakness: at the back. Now that has been extended to the national team. Dropping Gerard Pique was hardly a surprise. The problem is Spain had no one to fill his experienced if waning boots.

And up front, Diego Costa, for all his Atletico Madrid goals and massive Chelsea-bound fee, had another anonymous afternoon. Perhaps he was overawed by the occasion in the land of his birth.

“It is difficult to explain,” bemoaned Casillas as the hoardes of Chilean fans at the Maracana went bananas, those who had genuine tickets at least and didn’t have to resort to violently trying to gatecrash the party. “We ask people’s forgiveness. We are responsible but also the first ones to feel the pain.”

Perhaps at the root of Spain’s unexpectedly sudden demise is that the rest of the world got wise to their tika-taka, keep-ball style.

“We need to reflect on this calmly,” said Del Bosque who took over from the late Luis Aragones after Spain won Euro 2008 and led them to victory at the World Cup in South Africa two years later, before they triumphed again at Euro 2012.

But he knew, after two such tepid performances, it was the end of an era. “It was a deserved elimination,” was his brutal assessment. “We were certainly inferior to our rivals here at the finals. It is not the moment to think about the future. Little by little we will make the necessary assessments.”

Methinks without the current highly distinguished man at the helm.

Andrew Warshaw was formerly Sports Editor of the The European newspaper and is chief correspondent of Insideworldfootball. Contact Andrew at moc.l1635168506labto1635168506ofdlr1635168506owdis1635168506ni@wa1635168506hsraw1635168506.werd1635168506na1635168506