Spain relieved ''annus horribilis'' is finally over
At the start of 2014, Vicente del Bosque`s Spain were serious contenders to become only the third nation after Italy and Brazil to successfully defend their World Cup title.
Madrid: At the start of 2014, Vicente del Bosque`s Spain were serious contenders to become only the third nation after Italy and Brazil to successfully defend their World Cup title.
Thus it was fitting that what turned out to be an "annus horribilis" for `La Roja`, marking the demise of a side that had swept all before them over the previous six years, ended with defeat to freshly-crowned world champions Germany.
The 1-0 reverse in rainy Galicia, thanks to a splendid Toni Kroos effort a minute from time, was Spain`s fifth loss in 12 matches in 2014 and ended an unbeaten run of 34 home games.
Both sides were depleted by injuries but the result was the perfect way for Germany to cap a stellar year, while Spain were reminded they have plenty of work to do if they are to secure a third straight European crown in France in 2016.
Del Bosque is in the process of integrating a new generation of players following the international retirement of decorated stalwarts like Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa.
He has plenty of reasons for optimism, with such exciting talent coming through as midfielders Koke, Isco and Thiago Alcantara and forwards Paco Alcacer and Alvaro Morata.
Brazil-born striker Diego Costa will surely find the form on the international stage that makes him so lethal at club level, while Del Bosque can still call on the vast experience of such proven winners as captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, defenders Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique and midfielders Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and David Silva.
Spain`s next outing is a Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Ukraine at the end of March and they are currently second in Group C, three points behind Slovakia after a 2-1 defeat to the Eastern Europeans last month.
"We cannot boast that 2014 was a great year," the gruff Del Bosque said with typical understatement after the Germany defeat.
"But we want to look ahead with optimism," added the 63-year-old, who suffered his first home reverse since taking over from the late Luis Aragones in 2008.
"I want to focus on the positives in the players who did what was asked of them and we have to think ahead to March 27 when (Euro) qualification is at stake.
"We have to find a team, we have to make a team, that`s what it`s all about."