Are Spain’s tiki-taka days numbered?

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Spanish Olympic squad was less than impressive at Hampden Park on July 26. With Brazil’s burgeoning new crop and the World Cup being held in Rio in 2014, could we see a shift of power back in favour of the 5-time winners?

In an unfamiliar sky blue shirt, white short combination, Spain began as many would expect, dominating possession with patient, simple, confident football. Their first real opportunity came from an uncharacteristic burst forward, cut inside and 20 yard effort from Juan Mata, forcing a save out of Japan’s goalkeeper.

Clearly lacking experience and leadership in defence, Spain conceded a poor goal on 33 minutes; a flat, swinging corner left David de Gea in two minds and allowed Yuki Otsu to poke home from close range after beating his marker.

A series of poor back-passes down Spain’s right flank nearly led to a second for Japan as de Gea was rounded. Unfortunately for Japan the angle was too acute and the ball rolled harmlessly across goal.

More sloppy play along the back four led to Inigo Martinez bringing down Kensuke Nagai just outside the area. Japan scored from the quickly-taken freekick before referee Mark Geiger pulled play back and gave the young defender his marching orders and disallowing the goal.

Japanese pressure built in the second half with Keigo Higashi forcing an acrobatic save out of de Gea before Nagai spurned two opportunities when clear through on goal.

This is all in sharp contrast to the Spanish senior sides crushing victory over Italy in last month’s Euro 2012 championship final. If Spain are to continue their domination on an international level the most recent batch of young talent has a hard two years graft ahead of them in order to emulate the present teams success and style of play.

Tiki-taka, more commonly referred to as tiqui-taca in Spanish, first evolved during Johan Cruyff’s tenure as Barcelona manager back in 1988. There have been many iterations of this technical style of play, particularly in Spain, the most successful of which can be credited to Barcelona’s current team and recently departed manager Pep Guardiola.

Many believe it has evolved out of a lack of physically strong players. Others believe academies such as La Masia in Barcelona are responsible for the deft control and seemingly telepathic awareness of the players. Either way their philosophy has come under intense scrutiny despite its success.

Its greatest test is likely to come against Brazil both during the Olympic Games and at the World Cup in Rio 2014. Despite never claiming Olympic gold, Brazil enters the competition as favourites. Boasting stars such as Hulk and Neymar, the next seleção could inspire another golden generation for the already decorated nation.

Whilst Brazilians are renowned for their own technical ability, matching Spain will be no easy feat. Fortunately recent Brazilian teams have also been blessed with a physicality unrivalled by most nations, something that those Spaniards of smaller stature may struggle with.

What Brazil has in abundance is individual brilliance. Down the years they have always looked to an individual to conjure the necessary magic required to succeed in international tournaments. Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, and most famously Pelé, Brazil will look to Neymar to provide the catalyst to overhaul Spain.

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