Spain punched their ticket to the 2014 World Cup a few days ago where they will get to play against the best of the world for the World Cup. This also means that Vicente Del Bosque will also get the rare chance to manage his team to a second consecutive World Cup crown. However, the odds are against Del Bosque as he faces an onerous challenge to do where others have failed before him.
Del Bosque and Spain have a tall task ahead of them. The last team to repeat as World Cup champions were Brazil back in 1958 and 1962. A few teams have appeared in consecutive finals but failed to win both times. Argentina back in 1986 and 1990 along with Brazil 1994 and 1998 come to mind. Both teams failed to repeat with Argentina under the helm of the same manager while Brazil had a different manager in their second final.
Carlos Bilardo was the man who helped guide Argentina to their second World Cup title back in 1986 against Germany. He did not step down following that glorious moment for himself and his country, and four years later, his team made it to the World Cup final where they faced Germany yet again. In what was one of the most forgettable finals ever, Germany defeated Argentina to dash Argentina’s hopes of repeating as champions.
Brazil won their fourth World Cup crown back in 1994 and were back in the final four years later in 1998. Carlos Alberto Parreira was the man who steered Brazil to success in 1994 but would coach Saudi Arabia for the 1998 edition. Instead, it was Mário Zagallo, who actually was part of the 1958 and 1962 Brazil teams, that steered his side to the World Cup final before falling to the hosts, France. Parreira did get another shot at winning it with Brazil in 2006 but that team came up short.
More recently, Marcello Lippi attempted to guide the Italian national team to a second consecutive World Cup final, following their World Cup triumph in 2006. However, Lippi and Italy would also fail in repeating as champions as they could not even advance from the group stages. All three countries saw their attempts at repeating come up just short or crash and burn, and Del Bosque can afford to learn from those three managerial counterparts.
If there is anything you can criticize Del Bosque for, it could be on his reliance on the old guard. Many thought he should have dropped Fernando Torres after World Cup 2010 but there he was scoring in another European final two years later and participating in last summer’s Confederations Cup as well. Many believed that Del Bosque should have used the Confederations Cup to test his younger players and not subject his veterans to another busy summer. Surely that was the downfall of Lippi when his faith in the old guard, while disregarding young talent, did not pan out four years after winning their World Cup.
Thus, Del Bosque will have to think hard about which players he will take to Brazil this summer. Does he stick with David Villa and Torres, or move on and put his hopes on the likes of Negredo and Michu? Will he use Cesc more often than Xavi and will he start César Azpilicueta over Arbeloa? It is a fine line between depending on veterans and over relying on them. Many believe Parreira made a grave mistake after he opted to go with the veterans in World Cup 2006 and not with the young players that participated and won the Confederations Cup the previous summer.
Furthermore, Del Bosque also has to be worried about fatigue and compliance. For some of his men, this will be their second World Cup, and sixth tournament if you count Confederations Cups as major tournaments. That is a lot of wear and tear on those players who have been representing club and country in over 70 matches a year. Will they have the energy to compete for another World Cup title?
Better yet, are they still hungry for another World Cup crown? Bilardo’s Argentina were lively and threatening in 1986 but appeared bloated and lethargic four years later. We saw recently how Real Madrid came out flat after winning the league title under Mourinho while Barça fans still recall how their team under Rijkaard became complacent after winning the Champions League. The feeling of working hard and finally achieving the goal you have long strived for is rather unique and irreplaceable. It is also much more difficult to duplicate that motivation after you had already tasted success. Can Del Bosque take some comfort that the sting from Spain’s 3-0 loss to Brazil in the Confederation Cup Final could provide him with players hell bent on revenge?
The World Cup is 236 days away. That’s plenty of time for Del Bosque to decide on what path will he take. Will he avoid making the same mistakes that other managers have made in the past and select younger players who have not featured for Spain and are hungry to duplicate the same success that their idols have attained? Many envy to be in the position of Del Bosque however, I see it as a daunting position to be given the task that many have failed to overcome. History is against him but perhaps Del Bosque can learn from where others have failed and perhaps make Spain can surprise us once again.