Victory at Qatar 2022 was the dream for Luis Enrique’s Spain side, one which swiftly turned into in a nightmare.
World champions that oozed class just 12 years ago, La Roja barely got going in the tournament before being dispatched on penalties by unfancied Morocco.
The African nation’s subsequent win over Portugal will have done nothing to repair the damage which saw Luis Enrique depart swiftly after Spain were sent tumbling from the competition.
There has already been the expected inquisition in the Spanish media, with the most miniscule of details being pored over incessantly.
How could they fail so miserably? Where was the cutting edge when required? Yada, yada.
Don’t let the 7-0 win over Costa Rica mask how poor various aspects of Spain’s interplay was either.
Even against that backdrop of underperformance, certain Barca players couldn’t make their mark.
If Ansu Fati and Eric Garcia were looking for a confidence boost, they didn’t get it in Qatar. Ditto Raphinha for Brazil, who were shocked by Croatia, again on penalties.
The latter was somewhat anonymous throughout Brazil’s run to eventual quarter-final defeat.
For a player that Barca have invested so much in - both in time and money - Xavi and Joan Laporta would surely have been hoping for a better showing from the wide man. Particularly given the strength of the Canarinha this time around.
What is it they say…. Talent without hard work means nothing. Brazil’s overhyped stars would do well to remember that.
Spain did work hard, but toiled much of the time. What they lacked was that touch of class to get them over the line in tight games.
Pedri, Gavi and Alejandro Balde can be satisfied, nothing more, with their contributions but Ansu Fati, Eric Garcia and to a lesser extent, Ferran Torres, will be concerned.
Ansu clearly isn’t the player he was. Not being able to force his way into Luis Enrique’s thoughts for anything other than cursory minutes, however, won’t have done anything for his confidence.
You can see that the fear of injury lingers and that could well be problematic for the Catalans during the remainder of the campaign.
Ferran has shown signs, both before and during the tournament, that he can affect matches. A little bit of consistency wouldn’t go amiss, and would go some way to justifying the transfer spend.
Eric Garcia has shown himself to be an accomplished centre-back, if a little rash on occasions, though not being able to make his mark at all in Qatar will surely have hit him hard.
For a player that should be a regular for club and country by now, Eric looks as far away as it’s possible to be from that.
Only likely to get a chance because of injuries to others, he, more than most, needs a stellar next six months.