A look at the early standing shows that for Spain’s 1-1 draw with Italy Sunday may have been a point gained, but a point proven? Hardly.
Shorn of the injured David Villa, who led his team in goals in qualifying and in helping his country to the Euro 2008 and 2010 World Cup crowns, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque decided to start without a striker altogether.
Instead he played with six midfielders, looking to dominate possession and play keep-away with the Italians - after all, you can’t score if you don’t have the ball.
It wasn’t exactly a roaring success. The world champions looked sluggish throughout the first half, edging their opponents with 57 per cent of the possession but doing little with the ball to consistently test Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian net.
Despite its success in South Africa, remember, Spain hardly blew away the opposition two years ago, relying mainly on eked-out 1-0 wins and lacking a consistent cutting edge even with Villa, the country’s all-time leading scorer with 51 goals in 82 games, in the lineup.
Playing without an out-and-out front man may have even backfired spectacularly on Del Bosque’s team had Italian forwards Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano taken some of the clear-cut chances that fell their way, particularly Balotelli, who robbed Spanish left back Sergio Ramos of the ball, only to dally on the ball sufficiently to allow Ramos to recover.
Italy manager Cesare Prandelli had seen enough, and promptly replaced the Manchester City forward with Antonio Di Natale, who rewarded his manager’s decision by opening the scoring just past the hour mark.
Spain’s sense of urgency increased slightly - particularly with the knowledge that Italy has only ever lost one European championship tie after taking the lead - and Cesc Fabregas eased the pressure on the defending champions by levelling affairs three minutes later.
The passing seemed crisper and more fluid at this point, early tournament rustiness having been eased somewhat, and while his team seemed to be carving out some well-orchestrated scoring chances, Del Bosque seemed to be going all out for the full three points when he introduced Fernando Torres with a quarter of an hour remaining.
For a forward still running on fumes in the confidence stakes, what happened next would have done little to improve matters.
The last time the Chelsea forward appeared in the European championship, he was chipping Jens Lehmann in the German net to score the only goal of the 2008 final, but that was a forward in his prime.
The current model is a mere shadow of that and it showed. His first taste of the action was almost a carbon copy of that memorable goal, with Torres racing clear of the Spanish defence, only for his current lack of killer instinct allowing Buffon to tackle the onrushing striker and clear the ball to safety.
Minutes later Torres was handed a chance to atone, linking up well with Xavi but rather than laying off the ball to give the substitute Jesus Nava an easy chance to roll the ball into the empty net, Torres elected to chip, with predictable results.
Spain may have dominated in the passing stakes - outpointing Italy 672-341 - as well as out-chancing its European rival 18-10, but until the defending champion can consistently find the back of the net, there may be some rougher rides to come.