Misery will be the main emotion flowing through the Spain squad but for one Manchester United player, his country’s dismal exit comes with a silver lining.
David de Gea will take little joy in watching Spain collapse in front of him but he could be forgiven for wondering what he could have done in Iker Casillas’ stead.
Spain’s failings number more than just the howlers Casillas committed against Holland but it was a pivotal moment. Casillas, to his credit, has apologised for his performance but in doing so might have unwittingly drawn attention to role he played in their downfall.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know,” was Casillas’ answer when asked if he would play again for his country.
He didn’t play against Australia in their last group game and if it is indeed the end of an era for the Spanish team, then the Madrid goalkeeper’s ownership of the number one spot may well be finished.
De Gea, United’s standout performer last season, never had a sniff of a start, benched firmly behind Casillas and Pepe Reina in the pecking order, before being injured but his time to reign for Spain is now here.
Much depends on De Gea’s ability to maintain the stellar form he showed under David Moyes. He is capable of howlers of his own, but is more than suited to follow in Casillas’ distinguished footsteps.
The 23-year-old’s physical and mental development has been superb since he arrived in Manchester as a taco-guzzling rake with bad training habits who was habitually bullied by burly strikers. Dealing with crosses is still perhaps not De Gea’s greatest strength but it has improved dramatically.
His natural shot-stopping was wonderful last season. The save from Luis Suarez in an otherwise insipid performance at Old Trafford was breathtaking and in a season bereft of positives, De Gea’s performances displayed a rapidly maturing goalkeeper.
To revolutionise a team, as Spain will now have to do, requires faith in youth and sound judgement. Reina may have an edge in experience on De Gea but it is certainly open to question whether he is a better goalkeeper at this moment.
In two years time, you feel that De Gea would certainly have the edge.