Spain lost a qualifier for the first time in eight years, and it has its defense to blame

At halftime, Iker Casillas had done his best to give Slovakia the lead, one that lasted for most of today’s second half in Zilina, Slovakia. By the 82nd minute, however, it looked like the reigning European champions were going to play the titan’s part: initially struggling on the road; giving its host brief hope; only to salvage a result at the death.

Sure, they needed a kind call (or, non-call) from the second assistant, above, but that’s what being a champion’s all about, right?

Problem is, Spain’s not so titanic anymore:

Miroslav Stoch’s winner came only five minutes after the equalizer, with a Spain defense left shorthanded by Vicente Del Bosque’s substitutions giving Casillas little chance to preserve the result.

For the first time in eight years, La Roja has dropped a Euro qualifier, and while that shouldn’t dissuade you from seeing the team as favorites in its group, it shifts the context around the team, a little. Whereas Spain went into today’s match trying to answer “What went wrong this summer,” a new, slightly different question may be emerging: “How far has La Roja fallen?”

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