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back 2014 FIFA World Cup | 23.06.2014 20:28:24

Bayern duo Martinez and Thiago ready to revitalise weary Spain

  • FC Bayern München's Javi Martinez (l.) could be key to the future of the Spanish national side
  • And while the defeat at the Maracana looks to have marked the end of one era...
  • ...Martinez and currently injured FC Bayern clubmate Thiago Alcantara (r.) could be in the vanguard of a new one for the 2010 World Champions

Munich - The Maracana Stadium has hosted more than its share of history-making football encounters and on 18 June, the famous Rio De Janeiro arena witnessed the swansong of one of the best national teams in the history of the game.

Spain's 2-0 loss to Chile dispatched the holders unceremoniously from the 2014 FIFA World Cup in their second Group B match, bringing to an abrupt end a triumphal era that had seen the Iberians crowned champions of Europe either side of that global success four years ago in South Africa.

Martinez thrown in at the deep end


The 3-0 win over Australia which followed in the final group game did little to paper over the cracks that had first emerged in the 5-1 humbling at the hands of the Dutch. With one Spanish golden generation evidently on the way out, the relentless nature of modern top-level football demands its swift replacement with another – and two players in the employ of current Bundesliga top dogs FC Bayern München look certain to be key components of the deposed World Champions' restructuring plans.

An unused substitute in the opening 5-1 battering dished out by the Netherlands, Javi Martinez started alongside Real Madrid CF's Sergio Ramos in the heart of the defence against Chile. It was tough going for the man who swapped Bilbao's Athletic Club for Bavaria for a Bundesliga record fee in the summer of 2012, as the South Americans clinically punished defensive lapses by Vicente del Bosque's palpably diminished triple title-winners.

Thiago ready to make the step up


The powerful and versatile defensive all-rounder gave it his all nevertheless under trying conditions and, at 25 and approaching his prime, will undoubtedly feature more prominently as Spain look to fundamentally reorganise the ranks, even if he remained an unused substitute against the Socceroos.

Whether he does so in that selfsame central defensive capacity or a holding midfield role remains to be seen. Either way, he is not likely to be too far away from Thiago Alcantara, whose own hopes of a first taste of World Cup finals action were dashed by a knee ligament injury suffered in training in mid-May. The skipper of the Spanish team who added another European U-21 title to their collection in 2013, Thiago was famously the only name on Pep Guardiola's shopping list when he took up the coaching reins at Bayern last summer.

Pivotal figures at Bayern


It would prove an injury-blighted campaign from the off for the gifted box-to-box midfielder – the son, incidentally, of Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winner Mazinho – but, tellingly, only eleven starting appearances were enough for him to first break and then further improve on the Bundesliga single-game record for the most ball contacts.

Both Martinez and Thiago are pivotal figures in Guardiola's ongoing FC Bayern project, which got off to a more than solid four-title start, with the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup joining another league and DFB Cup double on the club honours list.

The German record champions' ultimate objective is to be the dominant force of an entire era, both at home and abroad. And while it would be no great exaggeration to say that the final whistle blew on the end of a different era at the Maracana on Wednesday, Bayern's superstar Spanish duo are well entitled to have great expectations on the national team front as well.

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