It started with a miss. Spain's stunning success in South Africa will live long in the memory, but things got off to the worst possible start for La Roja with defeat to Switzerland.
After doing things the hard way in 2010 following that shock 1-0 reverse in their first group game, Spain had wanted to begin on the front foot this time around, hoping to extend their successful streak to 15 consecutive wins in competitive matches, which would have represented a new world record.
But even though it wasn't to be as La Roja were held 1-1 by Italy in Gdansk, a deserved draw against one of football's finest hardly needs to set the alarm bells ringing - even if Spain were below their best on Sunday. After all, impressing in the opening game is no guarantee of tournament success.
Spain since Switzerland
|4||Spain have suffered four friendly defeats since the World Cup, losing to Portugal, Argentina, England and Italy.|
|5||La Roja have now played five games in 2012, winning all four before Sunday's 1-1 draw with Italy.|
|14||Between the defeat to Switzerland and Sunday's game against the Azzurri, Spain won 14 competitive games in a row. One more would have been a new world record.|
|29||The matches played since La Roja's opening-game loss in 2010. Spain have won 22, drawn three and lost four.|
Del Bosque knows that. "I don't believe the press are out to get me," the popular coach claimed earlier this week. They are not, and why should they be after he led the team to glory in South Africa two years ago? All managers make mistakes and on refelection, the false-nine experiment against Italy was probably the wrong decision - even though Cesc Fabregas scored Spain's goal to cancel out Antonio Di Natale's effort three minutes earlier and earn a point for his side.
But decisions will always be questioned following failure, however relative, and Del Bosque has been there before. The Salamanca-born boss has come under fire at Real Madrid and now with Spain, but he remains the right man for the job.
Two years ago, the crestfallen coach retired to his room after the Switzerland defeat, watched the game once more and stayed calm. Over breakfast, the mood was upbeat. Many of the players had seen the match again too and realised that they had not played badly. There was room for improvement, natually, but no reason to panic.
Victories over Honduras and Chile followed. And after conceding to the South Americans, Spain closed the door for the rest of the tournament, going on to claim the title thanks to four straight 1-0 successes - over Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and the Netherlands.
This time, unlike in 2010, the striker situation must be resolved, while the defence failed to completely convince against Italy. Nevertheless, as midfielder Sergio Busquets said on Tuesday, the Azzurri are "not any old team," but one of the best sides in the world.
Again, there is no reason to panic.
In sport, a strong start can be important, but a fine finish is fundamental. So belittlers beware - Spain are just getting going at Euro 2012.
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