Vicente del Bosque denied Spain’s round-of-16 defeat by Italy signalled the end of an era for the former world and European champions and, though he had hinted at stepping down after this tournament, he said he now plans a conversation with the federation president to discuss his future.
“Sometimes a team has to accept defeat,” he said. “I accept that Italy were better than us but that does not have to mean it is the end of an era. Spanish football still has a great structure, with good players and coaches, and now we must look forward to qualifying for the next World Cup.”
Del Bosque admitted his players were not forceful enough in the first half and started pushing forward and taking risks only when they had to but he denied his side were tired or lacked motivation.
“You could see we tried right until the end and we nearly got something,” he said. “The Italy goalkeeper had to make several late saves. We had chances to equalise, so we were not battered, just beaten. I think the late goal by Croatia in the last group game was the one that really did the damage.”
Antonio Conte also does not believe it is all over for Spanish football. “It is in rude health,” the victorious Italy coach said. “Look who keeps winning all the Champions League and Europa League [titles]. I wish Italian football was as healthy, because this is not the rosiest period for our country in terms of footballing talent. I think everybody knows that and that’s why this victory should fill us with pride.
“I have said on many occasions that in terms of going forward Italy had to be a club; we have to play like a team faced with a league season because we cannot rely on outstanding individuals as we have done in the past. We have to be a team and I think we are getting there.”
Italy’s win brings a quarter-final against Germany on Saturday and Conte is under no illusions about the size of that task. “Germany are a cut above the rest, I don’t mind saying that,” he said. “They are the best side at these championships bar none and we are going to have to face them without Thiago Motta, who is suspended, and possibly Daniele De Rossi, who has hurt his rib.
“Germany are a great team and there are a lot of hurdles in our path but, when the going gets tough, we can often manage to respond.”
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