Spain's Golden Era Is Over

Vicente del Bosque's side suffered a painful Euro 2016 exit to Italy. It marks a sad end to their superb spell that started to decay at the World Cup in Brazil.

Spain's era of dominance in international football is officially over. The defeat to Italy in the last 16 at Euro 2016 was no more than Vicente del Bosque's side deserved and it is proof that this team is no longer a force. It's time to try something new.

Del Bosque picked the same side throughout this tournament and after wins against Czech Republic and Turkey, Spain lost their third group game to Croatia. And despite that, the veteran coach kept faith in the same XI once again for the second-round meeting with Italy.

But even in the warm-up it was all apparent that one team wanted this very much, while the other one barely seemed bothered. The Italian players raced around the pitch, while the Spain stars stood with their hands on their hips. And the match had not even started.

When it did, there was much of the same: Italy provided all the early intensity and running; Spain seemed stagnant. And on the sidelines, Antonio Conte waved his arms frantically while Del Bosque stayed sat down. The desire of the Azzurri was there for all to see. From La Roja , though, it was all so half-hearted.

Alvaro Morata's movement up front provided some hope, but behind him there was little in the way of inspiration. Cesc Fabregas and David Silva both looked slow once again as Italy dominated the midfield, while Sergio Busquets was stifled by the persistent presence of Graziano Pelle and even Andres Iniesta could not provide a spark.

Only several superb saves from David de Gea kept Spain in the match, but even he was at fault as he failed to deal with a free kick fom Eder and Giorgio Chiellini poked home from close range. Replays later showed Iniesta and Gerard Pique were still speaking as the set piece was struck. Spain were distracted and all at sea.

In the second half, again the best chances fell to Italy and De Gea was again needed to save the day. But ultimately, Pelle netted a late second to send the defending champions home early - even before the last eight. There will be no third title in a row and, as in Brazil two years ago, Spain are out of the picture way earlier than expected.

After the World Cup, Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa all retired. Meanwhile, Iker Casillas has since lost his place and little is left now from Spain's golden generation. Fabregas should not have been in the team in the first place, while Iniesta will now surely be considering his future with the national side and may decide to quit - just as Lionel Messi did after Argentina lost the Copa America Centenario final on Sunday night.

And Del Bosque is definitely leaving. The 65-year-old coach said after the shambolic exit in Brazil that he wanted to lead the change with Spain, but he has failed to inspire a new era of success as this mighty Spain era decays.

So while Italy march on to face Germany in a mouth-watering match in the last eight, La Roja head home. European champions in 2008 and 2012 and World Cup winners in 2010, this team gave football fans so many memorable moments over the past few years.

But Spain's style, as wonderful as it was, is no longer as successful and Italy showed that they can be beaten with the right tactics. A fresh approach is now needed, with a different coach and new players too.