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No end of an era for Spain; changes against Chile

The Associated Press
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CURITIBA, Brazil (AP) -- Spain's players dismissed notions that a 5-1 loss to the Netherlands spelled the end of an era for the world champions, although coach Vicente del Bosque said it might be time to shake up the lineup for a crucial match against Chile.

''I think the majority of people have confidence in us. We accept criticism, but it's crazy to talk about the end of an era,'' defender Sergio Ramos said Saturday, a day after Spain endured its worst competitive defeat in 64 years.

''Excuses are for losers and Spain has a winning mentality, and that will never change.''

Spain's bid to repeat as world champion could end if it loses Wednesday's match against Chile at the Maracana. Chile beat Australia 3-1 in the other Group B match on Friday.

Del Bosque defended his decision to stick with some of the squad's older players, saying players like Xavi Hernandez, Iker Casillas, and Xabi Alonso were the backbone of a team that has provided so much of its success, including qualifying for Brazil.

''I sense these players are not too old, but I say that with some hesitation,'' Del Bosque said. ''I believe they have the maturity and the skill to take on this challenge. Those that are over 30 are more responsible because of everything they have won in their careers.

''One problem is that we have been so used to having everything go our way. In the face of tough matches we should be prepared to face adversity.''

Spain has gone on an unprecedented run since winning Euro 2008, but Del Bosque has done little tinkering with the core of that same team six years later. Spain has a generous amount of talented players that could likely slide right in like Javi Martinez, Koke, and Cesc Fabregas.

And they may get their chance against Chile.

''There could be changes, but now is not the moment to talk about it. I don't want to rush things and make a wrong decision,'' said Del Bosque, who expected Chile to bring a similar style as the Dutch with high pressure up the field. ''And if there are changes, it's not meant to be treated as a message to anyone.''

Del Bosque did not speculate over whether he would stick with striker Diego Costa or return to using Fabregas as a ''false striker'' that has been so successful.

Casillas made several errors to allow easy goals, but Del Bosque did not sound inclined Saturday to drop his captain.

''When Iker got into the dressing room he made sure to address everybody despite the solemn silence, he apologized for his play and began the recovery process that we needed, he acted like a captain,'' Del Bosque said before Saturday's training, when he had a long solitary chat with Casillas on the sidelines. Xavi later joined in as Spain appeared to take stock of its situation, and the fallout from the historic defeat in which it conceded more goals in one game than it did in its last two major tournaments combined.

Spain was in this situation four years ago in South Africa when it opened with a 1-0 loss to Switzerland. Sixteen players are back from that team, and the next test will be whether they can recover from such a beating.

Ramos said nerves were not an issue.

''We've gone through difficult moments before,'' the Real Madrid center back said, ''but we have to keep away from feeling any nerves and focus on staying motivated.''

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Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

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