SPAIN, Madrid, May 12 – As a pot-bellied, softly-spoken, 65-year-old, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque can rarely be described as a man on a mission.
Yet he is determined to put right a disastrous World Cup two years ago when La Roja defend their European Championship title.
“The origin of everything is Brazil and the disappointment of Brazil,” Del Bosque told AFP explaining why the Spanish public, so accustomed to success over the past decade, has failed to become enthused by its national team in the two years since Spain crashed out after just two games at the World Cup.
Del Bosque could lay claim to being the most decorated active manager in world football having won virtually every major honour at club and international level.
Champions Leagues and La Liga titles with Real Madrid were followed by winning Spain’s first World Cup in South Africa in 2010 and becoming the first side to retain the Euros four years ago.
Yet that track record has not protected him from the stinging criticism that followed Spain’s collapse in Brazil.
Concerns he is too loyal to the old guard that won three back-to-back major tournaments between 2008 and 2012 have persisted since he resisted calls to resign after the World Cup.
“It was a difficult moment for all of us, we had received a lot of criticism from people in Spain, in some cases disproportionate criticism considering this is sport,” added Del Bosque.
“More than refuting them, they should serve as an incentive for the next time. We never know what is going to happen, but we will try to ensure there isn’t a repeat of what happened in Brazil.”
For a man so used to winning with humility, dealing with defeat and the questioning it continues to entail nearly two years on has been a new and difficult experience for a respected veteran like Del Bosque.
Yet, his defiance to stay on for what he has long admitted is likely to be his last stand in a major tournament is also rooted in not going out on the low of Brazil.
“The federation are already working on it. There will be no gap, no problem, there are plenty of people prepared to be here,” he added on his future.
The sobering blow of Brazil at least ensures that complacency can’t be blamed should Spain fail to live up to expectations once more.
However, many of the problems remain unsolved by an uninspiring qualifying campaign despite a return of nine wins and just one defeat.
Whether Del Bosque is brave enough to finally discard captain Iker Casillas in favour of the more in-form David de Gea in goal is the principal question.
Yet, there are also dilemmas as to who replaces the retired Xavi Hernandez and Xavi Alonso in midfield. Del Bosque also has to settle on a regular striker since the ageing David Villa and Fernando Torres fell out of contention.
“I believe a lot in the veterans that have spent a lot of time with us and the new ones that are coming to give us the boost of fresh blood that they offer,” Del Bosque argued on the case for Casillas.
“Our objective is not to think that we have won two consecutive European Championships because people aren’t going to value that, but what we do in these Euros.”
Another title will give Del Bosque the vindication he craves and allow him to end on the high that a career of his status deserves.