The Confederations Cup final may not have been a hill of happy beans for the Spanish with a hefty defeat to Brazil. But there were still plenty of happy thoughts for Vicente del Bosque to mull over, on the flight back to Europe.
Here are five positives from Spain’s Confederations Cup trip.
5. Early Practice
The Confederations Cup was not just a handy dress rehearsal for Brazil’s stadia, infrastructure and riot control procedures ahead of the World Cup in 2014. The tournament was an excellent chance for Spain’s footballers, coaching staff and physical trainers to become accustomed to the weather and conditions across the length and breadth of the country.
The World Champions also got a taste of the atmosphere and pressure to be expected from the stands in next season’s international jamboree. All this could be a huge advantage over many of Spain’s opponents, who will be coming to Brazil with only a theoretical inkling of what is in store.
4. Options up Front
The striking situation had become so bad for Del Bosque last summer in the European Championships that the Spain coach opted to play midfielders up front.
That tactic has been largely abandoned with Roberto Soldado showing that the Valencia forward can cut the cheese at an international level and that Fernando Torres is not as big a lost cause as many think. Throw in the idea that Fernando Llorente may well return to form with his new club, Juventus, and everything looks a little brighter in the goal-grabbing department for Spain.
3. Strength in Depth
The switches and interplay in the squad between the group-stage matches in the Confederations Cup showed the incredible strength in depth Spain currently possesses. It really isn't fair. The traveling party could have split itself down the middle and both qualified for the quarter-finals.
Sergio Busquets picks up a knock, then how about Champions League-winning Javi Martinez to take his place? Andres Iniesta looks a bit pale and tired? Then have Juan Mata. Or Santi Cazorla. Or David Silva. The only area of concern still is the centre-back positions, but everywhere else on the pitch sees Spain very well stocked indeed.
2. Still the Best
The final against Brazil saw a tired, listless Spain against a bustling home team that had a million more reasons to win the clash than the visitors from Europe.
Spain showed what they could do against Uruguay and in flashes against Nigeria where the football was truly breathtaking. It was a jazzed-up version of the world's top footballing nation that proved that when La Roja are in the right frame of mind, nobody can touch them.
Not even Brazil, the eventual tournament-winners.
1. Know Your Enemy
The fact that Brazil is way over in a different continent and thus not exactly eligible for the European Championships, competitive matches against the famous gold shirts are a true rarity. In fact, Sunday’s encounter was the first time Spain and Brazil had met properly since 1986.
Friendlies are meaningless affairs these days, and it is only when a trophy is on the line that it is possible to truly understand a rival’s strengths and weaknesses.
Although Sunday’s final was a disappointing result for Spain, Del Bosque and his players will still have learned a huge amount about the potential tournament favourites, as the World Champions return to defend their crown in a year’s time.
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