RIO DE JANEIRO – June 16, 2010 and June 30, 2013. The dates bracket an era which came to an end Sunday in Rio for world champions Spain as their 29 competitive matches unbeaten run came to a shattering end in a 3-0 Confederations Cup final loss to exhilarating Brazil.
The Furia Roja had during those three years and two weeks also become the first side in international footballing history to win three straight major tournaments, adding the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros to their Euro 2008 success.
The Spanish media lauded a golden era as one which finally proved that Spain are not perennial losers.
But with next year's world title defence a year away it is now back to the drawing board for Vicente del Bosque and company.
Del Bosque admitted Brazil were far better on the day – Spain looked exhausted and out for the count once Fred bundled in a second-minute opener for the hosts before Neymar and Fred again completed a one-sided affair.
"They deserved it, and sometimes it is important to lose," said Del Bosque.
"Of course we are not happy but we must analyse where we went wrong. Yet our record is cause for optimism … we have good players and a defined style of play.
"You don't just change all that on the back of one defeat, deserved as it was," the former Real Madrid handler calmly observed as he failed to become the first coach to win the World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Confederations titles – he is already alone in landing the first trio of crowns.
"Football is a sport and we knew our opponents were very strong and things went in their favour right from the outset" with Fred's opening goal, said Del Bosque.
Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos agreed that "it was one of those days when nothing goes for you. The first goal came very quickly. It was tough to go behind when we had come into the final with such high hopes," said Ramos, whose missed penalty was only one of a myriad of incidents which proved it was a bad day at the office all round.
"We just have to praise our opponents for a great performance, and today we saw the other side of the footballing coin – that you can't always turn it on."
The usually dependable fulcrum of the Spanish side, Andres Iniesta, also had an off day as the Brazilians overran their rivals:
But the future Barcelona teammate of Neymar said: "That's football, you just have to bounce back. They were better and gave us the run around. Next year we'll be back and will hope to do things better."
Despite his teammates' sanguine comments, skipper Iker Casillas said he was down, with Spain having failed to land a title missing from their collection.
"The defeat hurts. We can only say well done Brazil and get back up off the canvas."
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique, sent off midway through the second half for a foul on Neymar, said afterwards there was one positive to take from his evening.
"Neymar is a brilliant player. I'm just glad he will be playing for us next season," Pique said. – Reuters