Richard Buxton: Don't expect too much of England at Euro 2016
While Spain show signs of rejuvenation, Three Lions remain in regression
(Mario Gaspar 72, Santi Cazorla 84)
Football won't be coming home next summer - England are already making sure of that.
Nearly two decades on from the euphoria of Euro 96, the nation that presented the Beautiful Game to the world continues to tumble down the rocky road of regression.
Lessons have not been learnt from a pitiful World Cup campaign, and for Roy Hodgson, any prospective epiphany is set to arrive too little and far too late for the 68-year-old.
Whatever deliberation previously lingered over Hodgson's position beyond Euro 2016 should now be a foregone conclusion for the Football Association's kingmakers.
As Spain demonstrated signs of rejuvenation from their own chastening group-stage departure in Brazil, England showed that they remain firmly in the grip of stagnation.
It is a side often autonomous in its selection. Hampered by injury, however, Hodgson has little by way of a contingency plan.
His methodology remains but consolidation, rather than innovation and evolution, continues to govern his approach.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), it finally came home to roost.
The 2-0 loss to the two-time European Championships winners was a rude wake-up for England, whose 14-match unbeaten run came to a halt in Alicante, Spain.
Attempts to smother possession from their hosts proved highly ineffectual. Where Vicente del Bosque's revitalised squad rendered theories that their muted exit in Brazil was more than just a blip to be obsolete, England, similarly, disproved that their flawless qualification record was not a sign of things to come.
Alicante's Estadio Jose Rico Perez may not compare with the polished arenas that will greet Hodgson's side when they embark on their Euro 2016 campaign but the standard of opposition was a reality check of what awaits them when the draw is made in 27 days' time.
Any manager who takes the reins at England has largely assumed a poisoned chalice.
It has seen off men with a greater pedigree than Hodgson's record in football's international backwaters.
Like Fabio Capello and Sven-Goran Eriksson, next summer's Finals in France will signal the death knell to his time at the top.
Complacency is rife within the ranks. The continued presence of a 34-year-old Michael Carrick at the fulcrum of England's midfield was symptomatic of that problem.
It proved costly as his willingness to allow the reigning European champions to saunter forward.
That the Manchester United enforcer's sustained ankle injury was treated as a crushing blow was another tell-tale sign that Hodgson continues to rest on his laurels.
With no legitimate successors to fill the void left by the likes of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and John Terry, that desperation to cling to past glories becomes somewhat understandable.
Such is the paucity of their closest competitors, players past their vintage such as Carrick and Wayne Rooney continue to command starting berths.
The Golden Generation has been superseded by one of pyrite - Fool's Gold.
More than ever before, the competition for places is now defined by the English Premier League's latest flavours of the month. Those enjoying any semblance of a purple patch for their club are allowed a free pass into the national side, often with underwhelming results.
Rooney, as captain and elder statesman, was quick to talk up England's current crop as the "best group of strikers" in the entirety of his career.
Yet Harry Kane's relative inexperience on the international stage could not supplement the shortfall left by the long-term absences of Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge and Theo Walcott.
Had injury not befallen Jamie Vardy, the in-form Leicester City hitman would have suffered a similar fate to his Tottenham counterpart.
That Hodgson failed to resist the temptation to deploy Rooney in the latter stages against Spain is an indictment of the future that lies ahead in France next summer.
Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets completed all his 54 passes against England successfully.