CURITIBA (AFP) – A Spanish side that had won their past three major tournaments crashed out of the World Cup after just two games as they were beaten 2-0 by Chile having also been hammered 5-1 in their opening game by the Netherlands.
Here, AFP sports looks at the players that might replace the likes of Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso, who have swept all before them in the past six years.
David de Gea (goalkeeper, Manchester United)
De Gea only made it into Vicente del Bosque’s 23-man squad thanks to a serious knee injury suffered by Victor Valdes.
However, the 23-year-old has proved himself as a top class keeper at United after a difficult first season and appears to be the natural successor to Casillas with Valdes and Pepe Reina also now into their thirties.
Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid, right-back)
Carvajal was harshly left out of the squad for Brazil after a stunning first season in the Real Madrid senior side that won their 10th European Cup last month.
A more attacking threat than Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta, he could make the right-back slot his own for the next decade.
Koke (Atletico Madrid, midfielder)
A key player in Atletico’s surge to the Spanish title this season, Koke played the final 45 minutes against Chile and recovered the ball more times in one half of football than Xavi, Alonso and Sergio Busquets have managed in the tournament so far.
A box-to-box midfielder with an eye for a killer pass, he was Atletico’s most potent creator of goals this season with 18 assists.
Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich, midfielder)
One of the underestimated factors in Spain’s demise was the loss of Thiago to a knee injury.
The former Barcelona man was a part of the Spanish under-21 side that won the last two European Championships and had, until March, been enjoying a fantastic first season under the tutelage of his old boss Pep Guardiola at Bayern.
A natural heir to Xavi in midfield, Thiago should be the key man in the Spanish midfield come the defence of their European title in 2016.
Isco (Real Madrid, midfielder)
Another of the succesful under-21 side from last year, Isco endured an inconsistent first season at Real Madrid but helped turn the Champions League final in his side’s favour as a second-half substitute.
His ability to shoot from range and create in the final third will be especially useful as Spain’s inability to break down well-organised defences has been exposed in Brazil.