Spain's six-year journey at the pinnacle of international football was brought to an abrupt halt on Wednesday, as Vicente del Bosque's world champions suffered an ignominious World Cup exit at the hands of Chile.
Even prior to Wednesday's clash, the narrative surrounding Spain had centred on a crumbling empire, a vanishing dynasty, the beginning of the end for La Roja. An Oranje army had struck such devastating blows that the Spanish throne was ready to be toppled.
That it was.
Louis van Gaal's Dutchmen had acted like the dominant predators, savaging their victim, before allowing Jorge Sampaoli's Chileans to feed on a decaying Spanish carcass.
La Roja's empire was finished, they said. The beginning of the end, many thought. One tournament too far, the general consensus.
There, seemingly laid bare before us, was the rubble of Spain's fortress, Iker Casillas' confidence and Xavi's exhausted legs among the most notable parts of the destruction.
Indeed, the 2014 World Cup does represent the end for this generation of Spaniards. There will be no more titles for Casillas, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, David Villa and Fernando Torres. The international futures of Pepe Reina, Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Gerard Pique and even the boss himself, del Bosque, are also far from certain.
But as a nation, as a collective, Spain aren't going anywhere.
In fact, La Roja will be back in a hurry, the recovery effort swift, the turbulent uprising of others ready to be quelled by heirs in waiting.
Certainly, before proclaiming the end of an era, announcing the end of one's rule, the key years ahead must first be examined. After all, periods of dominance only end when an opposing force, something else sustainably better, comes along.
If not, rare moments of vulnerability such as Spain's troubled stint in Brazil, become nothing more than a hiccup, a temporary dent in the supremacy.
It's very possible that's all 2014 will come to represent for the Spanish. For their European—and even their global—competitors, Spain's sudden World Cup exit could be nothing more than a false dawn.
Consider the next wave of talent available to La Roja. Can any nation match Spain's next precocious group?
At youth level, Spain captured the European Under-17 Championship in 2007 and 2008, plus the under-19 version in 2011 and 2012, adding further titles to the list in the under-21 event in 2011 and 2013.
Where do think that group is headed?
Whether del Bosque or otherwise, the team's manager for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup in Russia will have the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Ander Iturraspe, Isco, Daniel Carvajal, Alberto Moreno, Asier Illarramendi, Alvaro Morata, Gerard Deulofeu, Jese Rodriguez, Marc Bartra, Martin Montoya, Iker Muniain, Ander Herrera, Cristian Tello and Inigo Martinez to choose from.
Add those names to the youthful stars already in the squad—players such as Koke, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta, Pedro, Javi Martinez, David de Gea and Diego Costa—and you have another potentially dominant nucleus.
And that's before you even factor in how that injection of youth, of vitality, could benefit experienced heads such as Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Ramos.
Behind it all, those fabled Spanish youth academies, particularly those at Barcelona and Real Madrid, aren't going to halt the production line anytime soon.
Most importantly for Spain's next crop, the selection policy of the national squad will now be forced to change.
In the absence of the trophy-winning core, La Roja's manager need not worry about disrupting the flow of the machine. The conundrum of attempting to fix something not seemingly broken (it is now) will no longer play on the mind. Del Bosque or his successor can now discard the selection of players based on their familiarity with the system; the simple reason being that the system itself needs some tinkering.
Thus, as the Spanish look ahead to the defence of their European crown in France in two years' time, it's safe to assume that the reigning champions won't be weighed down by the same issues that have plagued their squad in Brazil.
Next time around, there will be no woefully misfiring strikers, no abundance of tired legs, no satisfied hunger to overcome, no goalkeepers short on minutes and no players selected based on nothing more than the manager's trust.
Of course, the recipe that has been used until now cannot be lamented—one of the game's most glittering outfits of all time was its product. But the regeneration of La Roja will force a shift away from the trusted methods somewhat, allowing the necessary reinvention of the Spanish team to occur.
Looking at what's to come, it's hard to believe that Spain have reached the precipice.
Instead, as Richard Farley of NBC Sports put it, the emperor might just be ready for some new clothes.
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