After Tuesday’s win, Spain will defend their world title in Brazil, yet becoming the first European country to win the World Cup in South America will be difficult.
Spain may be favourites, but they were well beaten by hosts Brazil in the Confederations Cup final on June 30 and have at times lacked their spark of the past.
The spells of football that bewitched the world is much reduced, though they are playing with the same tactics, players and coach.
It is not a serious issue. They have gone from being arguably one of the greatest international teams in history to being a very good side who are still ranked No 1, but Spain made hard work of too many opponents during World Cup qualification.
Spain conceded late goals against Finland, France and Belarus, goals that came when Spain looked physically and mentally spent.
Like a boxer who had done enough but had nothing more to give, Spain could not wait for the final bell.
Remember, though, that Vicente del Bosque’s side were written off at the start of Euro 2012 then finished so strongly that they annihilated Italy 4-0 in the final.
They have the quality and immense strength in depth to do the same in Brazil, while Alvaro Negredo, who has scored in every Spain game this season, appears to have won the audition to become the team’s centre-forward – now that they are playing with one. At the other end, Iker Casillas’s position is still uncertain.
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