Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said there will be time to reflect on his team's disappointing FIFA World Cup showing after the holders were knocked out following Wednesday's 2-0 Group B loss to Chile.
Glumness was etched on the faces of Spain's players as they made their way from the Estádio do Maracanã, their dreams of defending the title won in South Africa four years ago ended by first-half goals from Eduardo Vargas and Charles Aránguiz. Coupled with last Friday's 5-1 defeat by the Netherlands it represented their first back-to-back reverses since 2006; more importantly, their unprecedented four-year reign as world and European champions is over.
"The intention was there but we were missing something," the 63-year-old Del Bosque said. "Against Chile, we were timid in the first half. We changed after the break but couldn't change the result. The players tried right up until the end. Everyone made a huge effort. We are sorry we weren't able to reach the heights [expected] by all who sent us good wishes. There will be time to think about the future. We must have time before beginning to reflect, however."
Back in Spain, the ruminations have already started. "It was beautiful while it lasted," read the headline on the front cover of sports daily AS, referring to the period during which the nation won UEFA EURO 2008, the 2010 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012. Marca's opening headline simply stated, "The End", the paper adding that Wednesday represented a "sad ending to the Roja's most glorious era".
Xabi Alonso, substituted at half-time, described it as "the worst defeat of my career" but remains philosophical ahead of Spain's final group game against Australia, also eliminated following two losses. "After learning how to win, we must also know how to lose," the Real Madrid CF midfielder said.
"This team has experienced huge joy and now it's our turn to feel great sadness; we must face it as men. The feeling on the pitch wasn't like those of previous championships. We always knew how to control games but this time around we just weren't there."
Alonso's 2014 UEFA Champions League-winning team-mate at Madrid, Spain captain Iker Casillas agreed, saying: "Just four years ago we lived through the positive side, now comes the negative. There's nothing left to do but congratulate Chile, who played very well, and look to the future.
"We'd like to say sorry to the fans but they should know that we tried everything within our powers to bring more happiness. It just wasn't to be. We are responsible for this and we feel angry with ourselves. It's been a hard blow. This group of players didn't deserve an ending like this."
Following the Australia match next Monday, Spain will commence preparations for UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying, which the defending champions begin at home to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 8 September.
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