Spain 2014 World Cup tensions revealed: Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas involved


Spain are in their first major tournament final since they last won a trophy at Euro 2012, beating France to do so 12 years later. La Roja has been the best side to watch in the competition, and one of the factors most often highlighted in their success has been the atmosphere around the team.

The joy between Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal is the most obvious, but throughout, there was plenty of evidence of the jovial nature of the team. They will go into the final against either England or Holland as hot favourites, and expert Spanish correspondent Graham Hunter compared the atmosphere to that of the 2008 Spanish team in an interview with Relief.

“I noticed many differences and similarities. I was with Spain in the 2006 World Cup when we faced France in the round of 16. We had a prepared team, with talent and a good coach, but we faced a smart and very accomplished France. But what this Euro reminds me the most is 2008, and not just because they reached the final now, I've been saying that for a long time. I see the atmosphere and player profile very similar. I see that freshness, attitude, youth… There are no divisions. There is a style that is based on talents, with a good philosophy from the coach. Everything fits like a puzzle and we can make the last click.

Hunter also explained that Xavi Hernandez and Luis de la Fuente should be given a lot of credit for their management of Lamine Yamal at such a young age, as well as Luis Enrique, who he believes is laying the foundations for this side.

While he noted that a perfect atmosphere around the team is not a requirement for success, as was evident in 2010 and 2012, it can be a problem. At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it was tested by the tension between Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina, or Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas.

“I was here in very bad times. I experienced the things of legends. I will start in 2014. I remember a training session in which Iker Casillas, who I like and admire, had to control the ball with one foot and move to the two sides with each other. His lack of precision was… A player who had experienced the Champions League in Lisbon with the miraculous miracle of (Sergio) Ramos, who came to Brazil against a perfect Pepe Reina Del Bosque has not changed.”

“Or the sparks in between Xabi Alonso and Cesc (Fabregas), who made the coach send the Catalan to the dressing room. There was a bad vibe, tension…”

The conflict between Real Madrid and Barcelona players at that time is well documented, with Casillas and Xavi eventually smoothing over the issues to allow La Roja success in South Africa and then Poland and Ukraine. However, less is known about his problems in 2014 and 2016, when Spain did badly. His performance at the 2018 World Cup was not much better, but most of the blame is on the sack of Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament in Russia.

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