Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta admitted Italy had been “more effective in key moments” after La Rojawere beaten 2-0 to crash out of Euro 2016 at the round of 16 stage.
Spain were completely out-fought and out-thought over the 90 minutes, with the goals coming from Giorgio Chiellini’s rebound after David De Gea had saved Eder’s free kick midway through the first half, and Graziano Pelle’s clincher with time almost up.
Del Bosque’s 115th game in charge is likely to be his last and lead to a major shake-up ahead of the World Cup 2018 qualifiers, and Iniesta told Telecinco after the final whistle at the Stade de France that his team had to accept they had been well beaten.
“There are few words — we have to accept [the defeat],” Iniesta said. “They were more effective in the game’s key moments and overcame us.”
The first 45 minutes saw Antonio Conte’s side dominate completely with Spain unable to get their usual passing game going, and Iniesta appeared to confirm that a pre-game plan for dealing with Italy’s pressing and 3-5-2 shape had misfired completely.
“In the first half we were too much concerned with what they were doing,” he said. “Sometimes in these situations you pay for that. In the second half we went for the game, it was different. You can lose, but during the first half we were mistaken in being too concerned with them, it’s very disappointing.”
Euro 2008 and 2012 winners Spain had looked like tournament favourites after hammering Turkey 3-0 in their second game, but a loss to Croatia in final group outing sent them to face Italy in the round of 16.
Iniesta had put in two great performances in the group stage but was unable to do anything against Italians — and the scoreline could have been worse but for De Gea pulling off a number of world-class saves.
“[Winning the trophy again] was a dream we all had,” the Barcelona playmaker said. “The team and the fans felt that could happen at the start of the tournament. But we must accept this disappointment and move on.”
Del Bosque also told Telecinco that Italy had been deserving winners, especially with his side having been “too timid” in the first half.
“This is not the best moment,” the coach said. “We wanted to continue in the tournament but we must accept the defeat. Our first half was too timid, we reacted better in the second half with more aggression and bravery. But for sure they were the better team, for sure.”
Italy had not played too much aesthetically pleasing football, Del Bosque suggested, while adding that his side had tried everything to get back level after the break.
“They did not play great football, but they are very strong and powerful and caused us danger,” he said. “We wanted to do more after the break. We tried to do our best, to use the wings, to shoot from long range, to play the ball in the air. But it was not to be.”
Del Bosque’s 115th game in charge of La Roja is likely to be his last but he would not discuss his future even when pressed.
“Now the national team has qualifiers in September,” he said. “It will continue. I will speak to the president [of the Spanish FA], I have not said anything to the players. The president is the person to talk to.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Twitter @dermotmcorrigan.