Gerard Pique rejected talk of an end to Spain’s cycle of success but accepted the 2016 team hadn’t been at the level of 2010 or 2012.
La Roja’s hold on the European Championship ended after eight years in defeat to Italy and the Barcelona defender spoke to reporters after the 2-0 defeat, acknowledging the Azzurri’s superiority but denying this is where Spain’s success ends.
“Mood? It’s bad. After losing in the Round of 16 in a major competition it couldn’t be otherwise. We expected to go further, but it hasn’t happened so we have to think of [the 2018 World Cup in] Russia,” Pique said, AS reports.
“I wouldn’t speak of the end of a cycle. What is certain is that this team doesn’t have the level of the World Cup or the last Euros. There’s promise but level isn’t the same and you have to accept that. Now we have to get better to go to Russia and compete with the big teams.”
Pique was asked where it went wrong for Spain and pointed to a pre-tournament defeat to Georgia that he felt underlined team’s weaknesses.
“After we lost that friendly I warned we weren’t the favourites for the championship. We have to recognise we’re not the best national team. Ivan Perisic’s goal [the winner for Croatia in the final group game] hurt us. Not just the defeat, but it made our journey into a mountain,” he recalled.
“People always talk about intensity. It wasn’t a question of that, though they seemed more intense. We like having the ball more. They were effective in their pressing and that bothered us a lot and they went at us. They were superior.
“The Coach’s future? He’s earned the right to decide. He’s a very important person and he’s the best to decide. If he has the strength to continue then I hope he does. Now is the time for us to reflect.”
Pique was also questioned regarding the decision of club colleague Lionel Messi to quit international football after Argentina’s penalty shootout defeat to Chile in the Copa America Final, and hinted he expects the forward to change his mind.
“I know how he feels. I guess it was a very hard blow to him. I know how competitive he is and he’ll pick himself up,” Pique predicted.