CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Spain will not have much time to dwell on its unexpectedly short World Cup campaign, as it targets a third-straight European championship.
Spain closed Group B with a 3-0 victory over Australia on Monday, and the team immediately put the focus on France 2016 and beyond.
"We've got a new challenge and we need all of your support! To defend the European Championship trophy!" the team's official Twitter feed wrote out on the same day it avoided becoming the first world champion to finish its defense with no points.
Spain's time in Brazil may have been different if it had started with Australia rather than the Netherlands, whose 5-1 walloping not only upset the balance of world football but sent doubts surging through Spain's squad — a sensation it hasn't experienced since the 2006 World Cup, the last time it failed to triumph at a major international tournament. It followed up the defeat to the Dutch with a 2-0 loss against Chile, which it had never lost against since their first meeting in 1950.
How Spain deals with the fallout from what can only be termed a disastrous World Cup — when it finished third in Group B, out of contention — could determine whether it travels to France in two years as a favorite, or as a team in transition.
Coach Vicente del Bosque's contract runs until 2016 but his handling of tactics and personalities exposed some fractions inside the team, and it may prove tough for the 63-year-old former Real Madrid coach to maintain the desire and hunger that was lacking in the squad in Brazil.
Del Bosque stuck with veterans who had won back-to-back European titles and the 2010 World Cup when there was a wealth of young talent pushing to break into the team.
"Time will tell if we made a mistake or not," goalkeeper Pepe Reina said. "I hope the team reacts positively (to Brazil) and shows personality again."
The early exit in Brazil may offer a chance to usher in change.
Thiago Alcantara was slated to play a prominent role before injury kept him out of Brazil, and the Bayern Munich midfielder should be the nucleus which Del Bosque builds around, much like former coach Luis Aragones did with Xavi Hernandez.
Continue reading this story on the...