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Spanish media play blame game for World Cup exit

By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- As the Spanish national team prepares to fly home and their fans begin their retreat from Moscow, the Spanish media have already begun to pass comment on their side’s exit from the 2018 World Cup finals at the hands of host nation Russia.

Spain completed over 1,000 passes in their game against the Russians, yet their only goal was an own goal following a set piece, prompting sports daily Marca to criticize the lack of energy and pace in what was ultimately a sterile passing game with the headline: “Walking home.”

Marca describes the Spain side as “a side without pace, without depth and without joy and with a sterile domination of the ball.”

Diario AS looks at the age of several key players in the Spain side, such as Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, as well as Sergio Ramos and says the defeat means “the end of a generation” of players who gave Spain their greatest-ever success eight years ago.

“Spain had a ‘siesta’ for 80 minutes and didn’t have any luck in extra time,” said the paper.

The Barcelona based “Diario Sport” headline read “Que Pena,” which means literally “what a shame”, but is also a play on words over the exit in the penalty shootout, and says Spain went “out of the World Cup after a dreadful game against Russia”, while El Mundo Deportivo also uses the ‘Pena’ wordplay saying it was “maximum pain” and that “Spain went home after 120 minutes of very little football and the inability to score a goal.”

The paper “Superdeporte” looks elsewhere to cast the blame, looking back to Real Madrid’s announcement they had signed Julen Lopetegui as their new coach just two days before the tournament started, leading to Lopetegui’s sacking and his last-minute replacement by Fernando Hierro.

Superdeporte has a photo of Real Madrid President Florentino Perez on its front page with the question: “Satisfied?”

In a country where Perez’s influence is long reaching, perhaps a paper with its base in Valencia rather than Madrid is the only one willing to say what many are thinking: that Real Madrid, who are supposed to be the most Spanish and patriotic of clubs, are the ones ultimately behind Spain’s downfall. 



De Gea reputation at all-time low as Spain exit World Cup

Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Spain were knocked out of the World Cup after losing 3-4 on penalties to Russia on Sunday after their round of 16 game ended 1-1 after 120 minutes. Although few members of the Spain squad travel home with their reputation enhanced following their disappointing World Cup campaign, there is one player whose image has taken a bigger beating than anyone; goalkeeper David de Gea.

The Manchester United man travelled to Russia as arguably the best goalkeeper in the world after another excellent campaign in the Premier League and leaves being compared to a “tree stump”; “a traffic cone” and “a ghost” after a truly horrible World Cup in which nothing went right for him. Spain conceded six goals in the World Cup and although you could argue that only one was because of a clear error from De Gea (Portugal’s second goal in the 3-3 draw in Sochi on June 13) the numbers are cruel.

In four matches he managed to save just one shot on target from 11 he faced, including four from Sunday’s penalty shoot-out. That is the lowest percentage of stops by a keeper who has played in a World Cup since 1966.

A supporter would argue that five of those shots came from penalty kicks and that he actually got a hand to the first penalty Russia scored in Sunday’s shoot out, but comparisons can be cruel.

Only a matter of hours after Spain’s exit, Denmark played Croatia with Danish keeper Kasper Schmeichel saving a penalty in normal time and two in the shoot-out, while Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic was the hero of the hour with three saves in the shoot-out.

Some of the saves Subasic made were from shots similar to those which seemed to go straight through De Gea, prompting Diario AS to say he was “in ghost mode”.

De Gea looked nervous, while Schmeichel and Subasic were intimidating rather than intimidated. He’d also looked uncomfortable on crosses and his distribution was poor throughout the tournament. Indeed there were strong calls for Kepa Arrizabalaga to replace him against Russia.

Perhaps Spain coach Fernando Hierro, mindful that confidence is a major factor for goalkeepers, could see the harm that dropping De Gea would do to his keeper and kept faith in him. That faith wasn’t rewarded and we will never know if Kepa could have been Spain’s savior.

One thing is clear, with Spain set to appoint a new coach in the wake of their World Cup failure, De Gea has to convince him, the press and the fans that he is the still the man to defend the Spanish goal or he may have to get in line behind Kepa.



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