Fernando Hierro’s Spain were left licking their wounds as they crashed out of the World Cup Following a disappointing performance that leaves many querying where they go from here.
Spain went ahead early in the tie when 38-year-old Russian defender Sergei Ignashevich inadvertently turning a Marco Asensio free kick into his own net as he bid to stop Sergio Ramos at the back post.
Despite going ahead, Spain failed to turn their dominance into further chances and paid the price before half-time as the tournament hosts secured a shock penalty as Artem Dzyuba’s header from a corner hit Gerard Pique‘s outstretched arm.
Dzyuba then stepped up himself to send De Gea the wrong way and send the home fans into euphoria in the stadium and across the nation at large.
A foothold into the game secured, the Russians dug in their spurs as a dogged 75 minutes of action saw them match everything the hosts had to throw at them.
Driven on by the passions of their fans, the home side went on to secure a shock 4-3 win in the shoot out as the stars of Spanish football shrunk under the spotlight.
Whilst Russia’s commendable performance has rightfully earnt plaudits from across the footballing world, in truth they were very rarely stretched by their once formidable opponents.
Of all the upsets that this tournament has thus far turned up, this is perhaps the most striking.
Whilst Germany’s shock exit will have caused concern for the nation and effectively ended the 12-year tenure of Joachim Low, there is still a clear vision for the side’s playing philosophy and they can perhaps feel a little unlucky to have exited when considering the quantity of chances they produced across their three games.
In contrast, Spain have crashed out in a way that leaves fundamental questions to be asked about who they are as a side and how they must adapt to the future.
A languid performance saw very little penetration or creativity from a side that have come to embody the concept of possession without purpose.
With the old guard gone, there is a sense that the future of the national side is eagerly looking for a new leader to come to the fore – with many tipping the Madrid playmaker Isco-inspired to be the knight in shining armour that can effectively lead them away from this dull point in what has been an illustrious history of late.
Perhaps, if the likes of Isco, Costa or Aspas could have been allowed to fully express themselves in the tenacity attacking style of play that has brought success for many a side across this tournament, the Spanish national team would not be facing this shock exit.
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