World Cup 2014

Three Things: Iker Casillas and Spain go up in flames in World Cup shocker | Armchair Analyst

Tika-taka didn't die in Salvador on Friday evening. Spain will still come out in their next two games and keep the ball, knock it around for 70 percent of the game, and play some of the prettiest soccer of this tournament.

What died in Spain's 5-1 loss to the Netherlands – who were more "smart" and "fortunate" than "rampant" – was the international career of Iker Casillas. He won't play again for the team he's backstopped for nearly 15 years unless Vicente del Bosque is crazy.

We'll get to that last. First, though, a couple of tactical notes:


1. Kamikaze soccer pays off

ESPN analyst and Everton Manager Roberto Martinez called it “kamikaze football” from the Dutch at halftime when describing their defensive strategy – was man-to-man marking all over the midfield attacking third. And that's an apt description, because man-to-man marking in the modern game is totally nuts. It shouldn't have worked.

It does, of course, have its uses in specific situations, but it allowed the Spanish tons of room to operate after a simple switch. And if you get tunnel-vision latching onto your man instead of paying attention to the offside trap, well:

The 5-3-2 the Netherlands played will be seen again in the rest of the group stage and beyond (should they make it), but this wild, reckless man-marking won't be. Louis van Gaal took a big gamble with this tactic and it obviously paid, but don't expect to see it over the course of any upcoming 90 minutes again.


2. Spain without Puyol are not championship caliber

The problem with Casillas (we'll get there, I promise) is fixable. All del Bosque needs to do is write "David de Gea" or "Pepe Reina" onto the lineup sheet, and La Furia Roja are back to having one of the better goalkeepers at this tournament.

The real, scary, seemingly unfixable problem is replacing Carles Puyol. Barcelona fans are nodding sadly right now, because this is a pain they feel acutely.

Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos are both slow of foot, both ball-playing central defenders who glide into challenges instead of putting a physical mark on the moment, and both capable of ridiculous, rudimentary errors. In Pique's case it was overplaying Arjen Robben's right (!!!!) foot on what turned out to be the game-winning goal, while for Ramos it was basically everything he did for the entire second half.

To be clear: Spain aren't going to win the World Cup, but it's not because of Casillas. It's because their central defense stinks.


3. Last rites for a legend

It’s incredible that this great goalkeeper – at his height the second-best in the world, and by resume one of the five or three or four best ever to play the game – is suddenly so clearly washed up. The fact that it’s become evident during a season in which he’s already won the premier club competition in the world and is now defending a deserved World Cup title speaks to just how great this generation of Spanish players have been.

But ... my god. He was in No Man's Land on the first goal, a true golazo for Robin van Persie:

He went up soft for the catch on the third Dutch goal, a simple play that any professional 'keeper should be expected to make. He misplayed a back pass for the fourth.

He was as bad in this game as Peyton Manning was in the Super Bowl, and the result was the worst loss by a defending champion in World Cup history.

It's unfair that this game will be a big part of Casillas' lore, because he's been fantastic for so long. But this was as bad as a goalkeeper can play, and it came with the world watching. Nobody will ever forget this.

Also, this is his dog playing frisbee: