15 June 2014 | News Comments

Column: Are Spain's conquistadors a spent force?

By Glenn Mason in Salvador

Is this the end of Spain’s reign as commanders of the global game or was it just a bad half of football?

The defending champions were in control of midfield, and the game, in the first half here in Salvador. Despite the 5-1 scoreline, they finished the game with 57% possession and had control over the centre of the park.

However, the game wasn’t decided in there, it was decided by moments of brilliance from the Netherland’s top players in the final third, although they were aided by Spanish incompetence.

Spain lost their first game in 2010 and went on to lift the title without conceding another goal. However, that 1-0 defeat to Switzerland was nowhere near the humiliation of yesterday and a strong Chile side are up next.

The Spanish players politely refused to answer any questions in English about where it all went wrong, but they looked shaken by it, with plenty of shrugged shoulders as they struggled to comprehend the scale of the defeat.

A dejected Xabi Alonso did not even stop to talk to the Spanish media in the post-match mixed zone.

It looked worrying for the Netherlands in the first half as they appeared to be second best with 40% possession, as well as being on the wrong side of some bad decisions from the referee.

The game turned on two moments towards the end of the first half. David Silva was put clean through and instead of smashing or even placing the ball past Jasper Cillessen, he tried to be clever and dink it over the keeper.

At the other end, Daley Blind’s long ball caught the Spanish defence square and Robin van Persie produced one of the great World Cup goals. It wouldn’t be the last time that would happen to the Spanish backline and from then on the Dutch were in control.

Van Persie and fellow two-goal man Arjen Robben tormented Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. The sight of Robben knocking the ball beyond Ramos and leaving him for dead was something to behold.

This is the Ramos who has tattoos of the World Cup and Champions League trophies on his calves, in case we doubted what he has won in the game. Behind him, Iker Casillas made some calamitous mistakes and it was sad to see a once great goalkeeper get caught out so badly.

Atletico Madrid believed he was susceptible to high balls in the box and it brought them a goal in the Champions League final.

The Dutch exploited that weakness for the third goal when Van Persie gave him a nudge and Stefan De Vrij bundled the ball into the net. The Spanish players’ appeals for a foul wouldn’t have been necessary if Casillas was at his best.

Vicente Del Bosque’s loyalty to his captain will now be tested. If he does lose his place to David de Gea or Pepe Reina for the game against Chile, he won’t be the only one.

With the likes of Javi Martinez, Juan Mata, Cesc Fabregas, Koke and Pedro Rodriguez on the bench, Del Bosque has plenty of talent in reserve to turn their fortunes around.

It’s that talent that means they can’t be written off just yet and they have shown they have the character to come back and win. Chile will be no pushover, however, especially after their confidence-boosting win over Australia in Cuiaba.

The Netherlands meet Australia in Porto Alegre before Spain and Chile play in Rio de Janeiro, which means the latter game could be a straight shoot-out for the second qualification place.

What will have both Spanish and Brazilian fans worried is that the two could now meet in the second round game in Belo Horizonte on 28 June. Neutrals won’t be so concerned.

The colourful Dutch fans couldn't care less for the Spanish troubles as they celebrated their victory long into the night. One of them in my hotel was orange from top to toe, from his orange wig to his orange toe nails.

@glennjmason