Del Bosque, Der Zorn Gottes

After the Spanish conquest and sack of the Inca empire the Indians invented the legend of El Dorado, a land of gold, located in the swamps of the Amazon tributaries. A large expedition of Spanish adventurers, led by Pizzaro, set off from the Peruvian Sierra’s in late 1560. The only document to survive from this lost expedition is the diary of the monk Gasper De Carvajal…

El Dorado. Manõa. The legendary fabled “City of Lost Gold” that seduced Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century after the fall of the Inca empire. German filmmaker Werner Herzog chronicled this exploration in his landmark, fictionalised, 1972 account Aguirre, Wrath of God or Aguirre, De Zern Gottes, which paints a grim picture of one particular expedition fuelled by greed and the need to conquer, to spread the word of God to the ‘heathen’. This particular crusade ultimately led to horrific failure amidst utter chaos. It is a sad, sorry and pathetic sight.

Ever since Spain crumbled under the weight of expectation against a rejuvenated France in the last 16 of the World Cup in 2006, they have been spreading the tika-taka style all over the world via their dominance of international football and through Barcelona FC, all the while amassing a vast array of treasures. Yet their excursion into South America in 2014 has left them treasure-less this time. Of course, they never played in the searing heat of the Amazon: their capitulations versus the Netherlands and Chile occurred in Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova and Rio’s Maracanã. They would not have played in the Amazon had they progressed. Such is the unforgiving climate, Manaus will host no matches in the knock-out stages. Nevertheless, the metaphor begins with Spain’s ambition to conquer South America looking for gold, and ends with them leaving, like the conquistadors, with little more than a sense of nihility. This squad, conquerors of modern international football since 2008, have floundered in their attempt to bring home the gold they craved, which in this case is very definitely real. Their hegemony is over. They’ve possessed it before but will have to relinquish the crown. In the week Spain witnessed the coronation of a new King, they’ve had to realise that there will be no Spanish coronation at the Maracanã on July 12th.

It’s perhaps not quite the end, as France proved by dusting themselves off from the recriminations of 2002 and 2004’s mediocrity to reach a second final in 2006. Powered by a Zinedine Zidane rolling back the years magnificently, France achieved what many doubted. However, it is unlikely that one half of the Xaviesta axis, so brilliantly joined at the allegorical hip in recent years, will survive another major tournament. Xavi Hernandez’ days are surely numbered. Perhaps the Spanish demise of 2014 doesn’t quite symbolise the end of a footballing empire, but at the very least the tika-taka ideology has been shattered. Xabi Alonso, for so long the passer extraordinaire of the Spanish team, has retired. No doubt others will follow. Do Spain have a new breed of players who can carry on the same philosophy, or will they embrace the reimagined counterattacking style that saw them plundered versus the Netherlands? That will be decided by Vicente Del Bosque or his successor if his offer to leave is accepted. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in the final game as it will very likely represent the future of Spanish football’s direction.

Spain performed like Aguirre, plugging away forlornly in desperate hope of achieving what last year’s performance against Brazil in the Confederations Cup suggested they could not. They obviously could not muster the spirit displayed by Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, the character (based on events of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald) at the centre of Herzog’s equally majestic Fitzcarraldo. When faced with extreme adversity, aided by indigenous people, he managed to physically pull his three-storey, 320-ton steamer over the muddy 40° hillside portage, from one river to the next in order to overcome the harshness of the Amazonian environment with the intention of accessing a rich rubber territory. That endeavour ended in glorious failure. Spain exit the world cup with a whimper. Spain had no man with the single-minded determination to achieve such an epic performance. Unlike Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald, who made untold riches, Spain’s final group game versus a tough, highly spirited Australia will merely be a dead rubber.

Posted by Grant Holdsworth

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