Casillas' time is up for Spain
06/13/2014 6:40 PM
06/13/2014 6:40 PM
(SportsNetwork.com) - In the aftermath of Spain's 5-1 implosion against the Netherlands on Friday, the phrase "changing of the guard" will be thrown around freely.
Many will write off the defending world champions as old and past their best, while anxiously awaiting the crowning of a new king in international soccer.
And while Spain may have dug itself a deep hole with Friday's result, head coach Vicente del Bosque can at least give his side a chance to get out by making a change in goal.
Iker Casillas may have back-stopped Spain to three successive major championships, including the 2010 World Cup, but after Friday's woeful performance, a changing of the goalkeeper is needed.
The 33-year-old's form for his club team, Real Madrid, has slipped over the past couple of years, prompting former manager Jose Mourinho to make the very unpopular choice of benching Spain's first-choice netminder.
Even this season Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti relegated Casillas to Champions League and Spanish Cup duty, starting him in just two La Liga matches, with Diego Lopez assuming the top job.
For a team with such talented players in every other area of the pitch, it is a bit odd to a see a player in Del Bosque's starting 11 who wasn't even first- choice on his own club team at his position.
And on Friday, things blew up for Casillas in a big way.
After Spain took a 1-0 lead on the Dutch with a 27th-minute penalty kick from Xabi Alonso, Robin van Persie leveled the contest with a fantastic header that Casillas could do little to stop, making it 1-1 at the break.
But things fell apart for Spain in the second 45 minutes as the team watched Holland score four unanswered goals, with much of the blame falling at the feet of Casillas.
After Arjen Robben scored in the 53rd to make it 2-1 to the Netherlands, Casillas allowed a free kick from Wesley Sneijder to sail over his head and to the back post, where Stefan de Vrij redirected it home.
There was some contact from Van Persie on the play, but Casillas simply must own his area, which he failed to do in this instance.
Things really got bad in the 72nd when Casillas made a poor touch on a back pass that handed Van Persie another goal, while his indecision was costly eight minutes later when he failed to come off his line to challenge Robben and then fell down, allowing the Dutchman to fire home his second goal of the game.
That sequence capped a humiliating match for Spain, which must now regroup and get ready for a tough test against Chile five days from now.
Even the top goalkeepers in the world are prone to a blunder every now and then, but Friday's antics are nothing new for Casillas.
He collected a winners medal as the starting goalkeeper for Real Madrid in the Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid last month, but only after some late heroics from Sergio Ramos prevented Real from losing 1-0 on another error from Casillas.
Spain may not be the invincible force it has been for the past six years, but this is still one of the top teams in the world, capable of beating anyone on its day.
But the fact that Spain may have slipped just a bit means that there is no room for the kind of goalkeeping errors we saw on Friday.
Del Bosque must now make the difficult decision to bench a player who has given so much to the national team in favor of either David De Gea or Pepe Reina.
Reina is the more experienced of the two, but De Gea is coming off a fine season with Manchester United and would have to be considered the best shot stopper of the three.
Spain also lost its first match at the 2010 World Cup to Switzerland before going on to win the tournament.
However, the Swiss, Honduras and Chile was a more forgiving group than this year's Group B.
Chile is better now than it was four years ago, and while Australia is comparable to Honduras, the Dutch are far better than Switzerland and don't figure to earn just one point from their next two games as the Swiss did in 2010.
This result also means that even if Spain is able to get out of the group, there is a good chance it would be as the second-place team, which would likely set up a second-round clash with Brazil.
It wouldn't be fair to place all of the blame for Friday's disaster on Casillas, because there were certainly things in the Spain defense that must be addressed over the next five days.
And Del Bosque was quick to rush to the defense of his goalkeeper.
"We can't blame Casillas," he said after the match. "We lost because the whole team under-performed. I can't explain why we let in five goals."
Yes, the whole team did under-perform. But if Del Bosque is honest with himself, it shouldn't take long to come up with an explanation.