CURITIBA, Brazil — The Netherlands crushing win over Spain has precipitated a question that wasn’t expected to come up until after the World Cup — when do Spain’s veterans give way to its rising crop of talented youngsters?
Coach Vicente del Bosque said changes would be made for the must-win match against Chile on Wednesday. But with its title on the line, Spain’s transition still may not be fully made in Brazil.
“To think that this generation of players is finished is a little exaggerated,” midfielder Xabi Alonso said on Sunday. “We’ve still got life, there’s more to come from this team, which knows how to compete.”
And compete it must. Spain not only needs to win the Group B match against Chile at the Maracana, but also has a big goal-difference deficit to make up after being routed 5-1 by the Netherlands.
“We should remember what these players have achieved over the past years, the history that we’ve made,” midfielder Cesc Fabregas said. “But we also can’t live off of that.”
Spain did look as if it was living off its reputation against the Dutch. Alonso and Fabregas alongside Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez, and Andres Iniesta have been the core of a team that has won just about everything over the past six years but who came up flat against the Dutch.
This “golden generation” looked fatigued as it struggled to respond to the onslaught in Salvador, when the Dutch rallied from a 1-0 deficit to hand Spain its worst competitive loss in 64 years.
Del Bosque has always been reticent to make wholesale changes to this group, leaving a number of talented players on the bench or out of the fold altogether.
Strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres were called in to back up newcomer Diego Costa, while Fernando Llorente was dropped despite enjoying a career-best season at Italian champion Juventus. Real Madrid playmaker Isco was also abandoned.