By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
It was supposed to be a revolution. Out with the old, in with the new. Following the shock and sadness of their early elimination from the World Cup in June, Spain were hoping for a morale-boosting return to form on a ground where they had won in both their previous visits. Instead, they slumped to a disappointing defeat.
The starting XI against France was much-changed from the World Cup games, with David de Gea in goal instead of Iker Casillas, Dani Carvajal, Mikel San Jose and Cesar Azpilicueta starting in defence and Raul Garcia and Koke in midfield. Following the international retirements of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa, this was a very different Spain side.
However, the same problems persist. In the World Cup, Spain scored only one goal in the opening two games against Netherlands and Chile - and that came from the penalty spot. Here, La Roja saw plenty of the ball as usual but were unable to muster a single shot on target in the entire 90 minutes as Diego Costa cut an isolated figure once again - just as he had done in Brazil.
"We didn't score, but we had a lot of the possession and the play," coach Vicente del Bosque said afterwards, before adding: "We have to connect better with Diego Costa, understand him and how he plays. Little by little, we will improve."
COUNTING THE COSTA | The striker has failed to net in four games for Spain
They need to. Costa consistenly scored goals for Atletico Madrid last season (36 in 52 games), while he has netted three from four for Chelsea in the Premier League already. Since switching allegiance from Brazil to Spain, however, the 25-year-old has looked out of sorts and has failed to net in his four matches for Del Bosque's side.
He did not look likely to on Thursday and Spain actually came closest to making a breakthrough late in the game, when substitutes Isco and David Silva tested the France back line with some sublime link-up play.
Carvajal was the pick for Spain, a player inexplicably left at home for the World Cup following a promising debut season at Real Madrid. The right-back ran up and down the flank at the Stade de France and looks like a fixture for years to come in this team.
But not even he could prevent Loic Remy from curling France into a deserved lead (after Karim Benzema had seen a strike incorrectly, though marginally, ruled out for offside) after 74 minutes, with what turned out to be the winner on a frustrating night for the visitors.
"There are positives," Del Bosque added. "We gave a good account of ourselves, especially in the first half. Now we have an extremely important game to come against Macedonia [on Monday] and we'll try to get the three points. We'll be more attacking."
At home to one of Europe's lesser lights, Spain will be expected to win that one anyway but severe improvement is also needed - and quickly, because the much-anticipated "revolution" merely produced the same old problems on Thursday.
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