Fabio Capello wanted his players to prove they can cope with the best but in the end he was left to deny that England had taken a step backwards in their 2-0 humbling by Spain.
The wily Italian has masterminded an unblemished start to qualification for the 2010 World Cup but England on the night were no match for the technical mastery of the Euro 2008 winners.
It was England's first defeat in nine games but it was the manner of the dismantling by Vicente Del Bosque's men at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium that will have given Capello his biggest headache.
England were missing the dynamism of Wayne Rooney and athleticism of Steven Gerrard but lacked the mobility and fluidity to shackle the vibrant Spain playmakers Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick did a manful job of putting the brakes on the Barcelona favourites, but ultimately spent a large part of the night chasing shadows.
And while Spain can boast an impressive front partnership of David Villa and Fernando Torres, England, without wishing to be unkind, looked a tad inferior as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey failed to strike up any kind of understanding.
The need for a genuine world-class threat up front could not have been any more palpable in Seville.
Next up for England is a friendly against Slovakia on March 28 ahead of a crucial World Cup qualifier with Ukraine on April 1 and Capello has acknowledged his players need to raise the bar again.
"You learn more in defeat and yes, this could be our most important lesson of the year," Capello said after the Spain defeat.
"The next time we play a game like this we will all understand what we have to do."
Nick Walsh writes features and betting previews for Betfair.
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