Spain's base is full of banners reminding Vicente del Bosque's team that history does not win tournaments. Instead, the slogans state that "concentration", "talent" and even "humility" will be the key ingredients if Spain are to win a third major championship in a row.
Doubt does not win much and, for the first time, doubt has started to seep into the Spanish camp. For the 53 minutes between Antonio Cassano putting Italy ahead against Ireland on Monday night and Jesus Navas thumping home the winner from a yard out, the world and European champions were a goal away from elimination – and Croatia had more than one chance to score it.
The fans want Del Bosque to stop the experiment of playing without a recognised striker, as against Italy and the last half-hour against Croatia. "Everybody feels they can be a coach but I ask them to relax," said Andres Iniesta, whose role in breaking the deadlock in Gdansk was pivotal. "All teams have difficult moments and Spain is no exception.
"We were more tired than in previous matches. There were moments of quality in our game but there were also moments of doubt."
But like Arsène Wenger, who was watching in Gdansk, Del Bosque is determined to defend the purity of his football. "We should have faith in the style of play that has taken us this far," said the Spain manager yesterday. "We have plenty of resources to deal with teams who concentrate only on defending. If we had a bad match, Croatia had a worse one.
"People expect too much. A few years ago Spain were not well rated but now everyone expects everything. David Silva and Iniesta need to move into spaces and against Croatia the spaces were very small and, although some of the passes went astray, they did so by millimetres. People may lose faith in us but the most important thing is that we have faith in ourselves."Reuse content