Luis Enrique had said he was ready for the criticism and it fired from all angles after Spain were beaten by England on Monday for their first competitive defeat at home in 15 years.
Three wins out of three and 12 goals scored had launched Spain into a new era of optimism after their miserable World Cup last summer. But La Roja were dealt a reality check, losing 3-2, as England ran riot during a whirlwind first half in Seville.
Paco Alcacer’s header, and a Sergio Ramos goal with the last touch of the game, reduced the glare of the score but there was no doubting England were deserving winners.
Raheem Sterling’s double and a smart finish from Marcus Rashford made sure of that. “Suddenly the Spain that seemed to be afloat again in this muddled League of Nations collapsed with a crash and without remedy,” wrote El Pais on Tuesday. “Spain has taken a slap of reality,” said Marca.
This is the same team that looked rejuvenated after victories over England, Croatia and Wales but one defeat, at home, has quickly altered the perspective. “When we put six past Croatia nobody told us we gave too many passes,” Dani Ceballos said.
Harry Kane set up two of England’s goals, the second for Rashford after a brilliant piece of hold-up play left Ramos and Nacho scrambling. Kane made a strong impression.
“Kane threw overboard all the illusions of La Roja and brought into question the foundations on which Luis Enrique’s project is based,” wrote Diario Sport.
Mundo Deportivo described Kane as “masterly” while Marca carried a poll on its website, asking: “How much would you pay for Harry Kane?” More than half answered 150 to 200 million euros.
There was praise too for Sterling and Rashford, “the hares of Southgate”, according to AS. Contrasting England’s pace to Spain’s possession game, Mundo wrote: “The English do not get tangled up. They move like rockets.”
The admiration of Kane, in particular, perhaps stems from envy too. Diego Costa was injured and absent in Seville but his style has never chimed with the Spanish national team, while Iago Aspas, Rodrigo and Alvaro Morata are yet to claim the position as their own.
“There is no country in Europe with so many difficulties at centre forward than Spain,” El Pais wrote. “The sudden popularity of Paco Alcacer is explained by his recent and explosive goal production, but he will hardly solve the mystery.”
In defence, Ramos’ poor start to the season continued, his place arguably secured more by a lack of compelling alternatives than his own form. “A symbol of the disaster,” wrote AS. “He was chaotic all night.”
Others laid the blame with the midfield where Sergio Busquets was caught out of position as England tore forward for Sterling’s first goal. Saul Niguez, so impressive in Spain’s 2-1 win at Wembley last month, was quiet.
“Busquets was making mistakes that were unusual for him,” Marca said. “It is impossible to prove but the first half was perhaps his worst in the red shirt.”
England will hope this victory, their first against a World Cup winner since they beat Argentina in 2002, will prove a springboard for their young team. It did not go unnoticed across Europe.
“England were ruthless,” Italy’s La Gazetta wrote. “It was an unrecognisable Spain, harmless up front, disconnected with Busquets and Saul in midfield, and disastrous at the back.”