CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) — Spain coach Vicente del Bosque was struggling Sunday to answer just why his team had endured failure at a major tournament for the first time in eight years.
Spain heads home after Monday's Group B match against Australia as the first defending champion to be knocked out of the tournament after just two games. Spain has won consecutive European Championships around the 2010 edition since exiting the World Cup in the first knockout stage to France in 2006.
Four days on from a 2-0 loss to Chile that left it unable to progress into the elimination stage, Spain was still trying to figure out where it all went wrong before Monday's Group B final at the Arena da Baixada stadium.
"We leave with a taste in our mouths of not having met expectations," Del Bosque said before attempting to underline the reason for Spain's earliest exit from a major tournament since Euro 2004 when it was also knocked from the group stage.
"It comes down to a number of things. In the physical, tactical, and coaching aspects, we were inferior to the two rivals we played. It's hard to deduct the one reason since it comes down to a number of reasons. It's been a surprise, a surprise for everybody."
Spain is last in Group B, behind Australia on goal difference, due to the 5-1 loss against the Netherlands in its opener. Del Bosque, normally a diplomatic figure, had even pointed some blame at his player said earlier Sunday in an interview with Spanish broadcaster Cuatro when he said: "I always think about the collective and the players only think about themselves."
The 63-year-old Spanish coach said a training ground incident with Cesc Fabregas on Saturday was not a problem, with goalkeeper Pepe Reina adding all was fine inside Spain's camp despite a different picture being painted on the exterior.
"Everything is great as always, like every year or every time the national team is called together," said Reina, who will start in place of Iker Casillas against Australia. "Nothing disagreeable." Del Bosque said he remains motivated to lead the European champions despite having stated he would step aside if asked. The 63-year-old Spanish coach is under contract until Euro 2016 in France and is the country's most successful coach.
"Nearly all of the decisions I've taken have been for the good of the team," Del Bosque said. "I'm convinced we are going to play well (against Australia). Whether we win or lose, I'm not sure." Del Bosque said midfielder Xavi Hernandez (leg muscle) would not be available against Australia, when Andres Iniesta would feature to earn his 100th cap. Iniesta scored the extra-time winner four years ago in South Africa when Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0 to win its first World Cup.
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