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Why Tiki-Taka Is Not Dead - Analysis

World Champions, Spain’s early 2014 FIFA World Cup exit will say that signs have been there that Tiki-Taka is a declining force.

Brazil’s 3-0 win over Spain in the 2013 Confederation’s Cup final was a moment that Tiki-Taka seemed exposed by aggressive defensive pressing, and swift counter-attacking.

Yet, is not that Spain and Barcelona’s passing game has been undone by the physicality of a committed defensive approach.

It is that La Furia Roja and Barca have allowed their own defensive standards to drop. Indeed, these two grand masters of Tiki-Taka in their pomp would defend through having possession of the ball.

However, when it was lost – the press to regain it was sudden, extremely organised and intensive.

In Barca’s golden area of Tiki-Taka under Pep Guardiola, this hunger to win the ball back within five to 10 seconds was a fundamental strength of the style.

Under Guardiola in 2010/11, Lionel Messi retrieved possession through interceptions or tackles 2.1 times per match. This figure had dropped to closer to 0.6 after he departed.

The malaise of Tiki-Taka is not that the technical superiority of total ball domination has died. It is that a fundamental of its make-up has been neglected – Spain and Barcelona are not as cohesive and aggressive as they once were in winning it back.

When La Furia Roja won the 2010 World Cup in Mzansi, the defensive aspect of Tiki-Taka was clear in the numbers. Spain were in the top five tournament tacklers with an 80% tackle rate. The record-breaking five clean sheets they kept further proof of this defensive dominance.

But it was in often never-ending spells of possession that Spain hurt teams. Simply put, teams never had enough of the ball to hurt them back.

Vicente Del Bosque went away from this model by selecting Diego Costa upfront in Brazil. Here was a striker who needed crosses and more direct balls to thrive, and in at times sacrificing possession in this way, Holland and Chile cut Spain to pieces on the break.

With the decline in recent seasons of Spain’s once strangling defensive press to regain the ball, Tiki-Taka thus found itself exposed.

Factor in the calamitous Iker Casillas as well as a lack of belief and passion throughout the team – and it’s easy to declare that Tiki-Taka is dead.

But this style of play was too dominant for too long to simply die with two confused performances in South America. Indeed, its obsessive chief architect, Guardiola, is still at work modifying and perfecting it at Bayern Munich.

For this reason, don't write the obituaries just yet because Tiki-Taka is not dead. It appears all it needs is a return to its defensive principles to one day thrive again. 

Have your say - Did Spain's exit from the 2014 World Cup signal the end of Tiki-Taka in modern football?

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