Spain coach Vicente del Bosque saw plenty of positives in defeat as the deposed world champions began a new era with a 1-0 friendly defeat to France in Paris on Thursday.
In their first game since bowing out of the World Cup, Spain had three debutants in their starting line-up at the Stade de France and a goalkeeper in David de Gea winning just his second cap, while Santi Cazorla, at 29, was the oldest player to feature.
The result was a first defeat to France since the last 16 of the World Cup in 2006, just before the start of their golden era, and a failure to muster a single shot on target as substitute Loic Remy’s 73rd-minute effort for the hosts made the difference.
However, Del Bosque, 63, believes the performance against a side he rates highly augurs well ahead of the start of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Macedonia in Valencia on Monday.
“There was a good attitude from everyone. We moved the ball well and there were plenty of positives to take with lots of new faces,” said the coach, who has seen Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and David Villa retire from international football and was also missing the likes of Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique in Paris.
“It was an even game. They had quicker transitions, but we controlled the game more. We need more matches but we will improve and in general I think we showed we are a good team.”
The lack of a cutting edge was surely the biggest concern, with Spain only coming close to equalising when substitute David Silva sent a shot narrowly wide seven minutes from time, but Del Bosque believes that centre-forward Diego Costa, again disappointing as he was at the World Cup, will eventually come good at international level.
“We didn’t take what chances we had but the connection with Diego Costa was better. We need to link up well with him. They are very strong defensively and didn’t let us play.”
Familiar faces will come back over the course of the qualifying campaign, in which Spain’s biggest tests will probably come against Ukraine and Slovakia, but the new faces will continue to play a prominent role going into the finals in two years.
“First we need to qualify,” said Del Bosque. “Even if we had done better at the World Cup I think we would still have taken the same measures. The regeneration of the team was needed but we maintain the same basis of players as in the past.”
– Del Bosque ‘no magician’ –
As hosts, France need not worry about qualifying for the European Championship, so the win was the ideal start to a two-year run of friendly matches for Les Bleus and their coach Didier Deschamps.
He insisted that the difference between the teams on the night could be put down to the greater experience his side has of playing together, with 10 of those who started in the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Germany also taking to the field on Thursday.
“Everyone who started was at the World Cup and they know each other, while Spain had some new faces. You can’t change everything overnight,” said Deschamps.
“It is never easy when you take out the likes of Alonso, Xavi, Pique and Iniesta. They played together with their eyes closed. Del Bosque is a great coach but he’s not a magician.”
His own side were impressive, with Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Mathieu Valbuena all contenders for man of the match, but Deschamps tried to play down the significance of a victory against a side who won at the same venue in World Cup qualifying 18 months ago.
“We are a long way from the Euro. This was the first match, but it always does you good. We hadn’t beaten them for eight years, although that was logical because for six years they dominated Europe and the world.
“This should give us more confidence. It is a progression from the last time we played them,” said Deschamps, who acknowledged that he will rotate his squad for Sunday’s friendly away to Serbia. – Agence France-Presse