Were expectations met?
In a word, no. Last summer's 3-0 FIFA Confederations Cup final loss to Brazil served as a warning to the 2010 FIFA World Cup winners ahead of what was always going to be a tough title defence – no European side has ever triumphed in South America. Even so, Spain's 5-1 capitulation to the Netherlands in their opening game will be one of the competition's enduring results. Vicente del Bosque's team could not recover from that reverse in Salvador, effectively exiting the tournament in their next match against Chile.
What the media say
AS: It was beautiful while it lasted.
El País: The end of an era. A powerless Spain leave Brazil resigned, conscious of their previous gigantic legacy.
What they say
Vicente del Bosque: For six years we were the No1-ranked FIFA team month after month. This generation of players have shown the way in terms of wins and behaviour. The future is also in safe hands and we remain calm in the face of the challenge ahead.
Aside from a 3-0 victory over Australia in Curitiba, Spain will take few pluses from their travails in Brazil. The assured performances of 22-year-old Club Atlético de Madrid midfielder Koke bode well for the future while the influential Andrés Iniesta – who reached 100 caps in the final game in Brazil – will likely stick around for his nation's UEFA European Championship defence.
Room for improvement
Shipping seven goals in three Group B fixtures highlighted Spain's need to solidify at the back, where confidence appears badly shaken. Finding the lost midfield spark that illuminated previous tournaments and a consistent goalscorer to match the likes of the country's all-time leading scorer David Villa, whose international future remains in the balance, will also be key.
The aforementioned Koke was a UEFA European Under-21 Championship winner with Spain last summer, and it is towards that victorious 2013 squad that Del Bosque will probably look as he builds for UEFA EURO 2016. FC Bayern München midfielder Thiago Alcántara, Manchester United FC's David de Gea, FC Barcelona's Marc Bartra and Isco of Real Madrid CF may feature prominently while former Under-19 starlets Gerard Deulofeu and Jesé Rodríguez could also step up.
Spain kick off UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group C at home to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 8 September. In a tough section also featuring Ukraine, Slovakia, Belarus and Luxembourg, the UEFA EURO 2008 and UEFA EURO 2012 champions will look to re-establish their reputation as the continent's best team and avoid any further slip-ups.
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