Golden generation - but Spain's Olympic hopes hang in the balance as Brazil await

La Roja lost their opening group game on Thursday and could now face the South Americans in the last eight - and they will have to improve to even make it that far
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

There was no tiki, there was no taka. Spain's golden generation of footballers may have won it all in recent seasons, but adding Olympic glory to their World Cup and European Championship successes suddenly appears a tall order following a surprise loss to Japan on Thursday.

Notorious slow starters in major competitions, Spain managed only a draw against Italy as Euro 2012 got underway and went down to Switzerland in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup.

This result, however, could prove far more costly.

Spain can still qualify for the last eight, but Luis Milla's side will also hope to avoid a second-round clash with fellow favourites Brazil, 3-2 winners over Egypt later on Thursday.

The Selecao, despite almost throwing away a three-goal lead, look likely to top Group C. Spain, then, will need to win Group D to avoid a meeting many had expected to be the final.

MATCH FACTS | Spain 0-1 Japan

 On Target
 Red cards
The Spanish side, with Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez and Juan Mata all starting, seemed stunned by the sheer intensity and pressure from a high-tempo Japanese XI. And by the time they found their feet, they were already a goal down. Then a man down.

There was no way back.

Yuki Otsu got in front of Martin Montoya to fire the Japanese ahead after 34 minutes and, seven later, Inigo Martinez saw red for a foul on Kensuke Nagai. The Real Sociedad defender was the last man - he had to go.

Spain improved after the break, but failed to truly test the Japanese and after Jordi Alba missed a clear chance to save their blushes right at the end, La Roja find themselves bottom of Group C after Honduras and Morocco drew 2-2 in the other match. 

So now, just like at the World Cup in South Africa, Spain go into their second game against Honduras knowing that only a win is likely to be good enough. And even two victories from their remaining group games may not be sufficient to advance as winners of the section.

Finish runners-up and Brazil (with Belarus and New Zealand to negotiate) are likely to await in the quarter-finals, leaving one of the two favourites without a medal of any colour. And on the evidence of Thursday, it won't be the South Americans going home early.

So after just one game, the moment of truth has already arrived for Spain's golden generation. Now they must respond like champions.

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