Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said Spain are now stronger than the Euro 2008 winners.
Questions have been raised of the philosophy adopted by Vicente del Bosque’s side, with Spain drawing with Italy, requiring a late goal to beat Croatia and edging past Portugal only after a penalty shootout.
Some have suggested that Spain have taken their ‘tiki-taka’ approach to an excessive level, but Martinez praised their commitment in sticking to their continuous passing style.
“What you must understand is that Spain have got a really strong philosophy,” Martinez told The Sun.
“That philosophy is how they keep the ball, how they are patient, how they play from the back and expose teams, how they defend.
“They are not worse than 2008, they are better. It was easier to beat them in 2008. They are more mature now and don’t get exposed (as much).”
Martinez also believes the teams that Spain have faced should be coming under scrutiny for their defensive approach.
“The criticism shouldn’t be about Spain — it should be about the teams they play against,” Martinez said.
“People don’t realise that it is all about stopping Spain. That’s a compliment to them.
“But if you look through history, the hardest habit in football is to win when you are expected to win. We have seen that with them over three tournaments.
“Once you achieve special status, the opposition can try anything they want to beat you.
“Whatever nation you are, you are allowed to have 11 players behind the ball, you are allowed to defend in your own box, you’re allowed to not create anything. And that is when Spain comes into a different level, by winning.”
Portugal matched Spain for much of the semi-final in Donetsk but Martinez pointed out that del Bosque’s team allowed them little in the way of clear-cut chances.
“Yes, in the semi-final, Portugal were a better side,” he said.
“But, even then, Spain never made the wrong decisions, they never left themselves exposed.
“They kept a fantastic shape and they gave themselves the chance to win. Portugal played as well as they can – and still lost.”