" In Brazil, Ronaldo was eliminated at the World Cup group stage with Portugal, but he has broken the 60-goal barrier for a fourth calendar year in a row, and his goals have powered Spanish club Real Madrid to an incredible run of 21 straight wins, with a Club World Cup final still to come."
London, Dec 20 - The 2014 World Cup in Brazil witnessed the end of Spanish dominance of international football and the start of a new era.

Spain dominated international football for six years, beginning 2008, winning two European championships and a World Cup. It made La Roja the first team in history to win three consecutive tournaments. Their quick passing, organisation and synchronicity in movement, dubbed the 'tiki-taka' style, were impressive to watch, reports Xinhua.

But cracks started to show in the Spanish legion as key players like Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Iker Casillas were aging and no longer in their prime.

A 1-5 loss to the Netherlands and a 0-2 defeat at the hands of Chile sent Vicente del Bosque's boys back home after the group stage of the World Cup in Brazil.

Spain's early World Cup exit, however, didn't mean 'tiki-taka' football was dead.

According to experts, Germany's triumph at the World Cup was technically based on the Spanish style. The German youth football training system drew inspiration from the famous La Masia academy of spanish club FC Barcelona.

Germany coach Joachim Loew has been learning 'tiki-taka' football ever since their 0-1 defeat at the 2008 Euro final, and Pep Guardiola also made a contribution as the former Barcelona player and coach instilled the 'tiki-taka' philosophy into Bayern Munich after he took over the German Bundesliga giants in 2013. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos, Mario Goetze and Philipp Lahm, who played pivotal roles in Germany's World Cup campaign, were all from Bayern Munich.

The success of German football was believed to be the outcome of huge efforts in cultivating young talent. Germany reformed their youth training programme following their disappointing performance at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 Euro.

All 36 clubs in the two Bundesliga divisions were obliged to build up their own youth training academies before being given a license to play in the league. The youth training programme generated a dozen stars like Muller, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira.

Germany's success has inspired others to follow as well. After the World Cup, the English Football Association and the Confederation of Brazil Football both launched reforms in their respective youth training programmes.

Although world football is embracing a new era of highly technically coordinated team work, it still needs individual brilliance to add some spark. Argentina's Lionel Messi and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo were the shinning stars of 2014.

Messi helped his country reach the World Cup final almost single-handedly. At his club FC Barcelona, Messi has broken the Champions League and Spanish League scoring records this month, but he will end the year without a team title.

In Brazil, Ronaldo was eliminated at the World Cup group stage with Portugal, but he has broken the 60-goal barrier for a fourth calendar year in a row, and his goals have powered Spanish club Real Madrid to an incredible run of 21 straight wins, with a Club World Cup final still to come.

Last but not least, two things are worthy of being mentioned. Costa Rica shocked the world when they survived the Group of Death in the World Cup, which also included former world champions Italy, England and Uruguay, and beat Greece before losing to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals after a penalty shootout, while Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez fell from grace for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini and was suspended for four months.


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