The revitalisation of England was given a dose of reality after a comprehensive defeat by Euro 2008 champions Spain.
Gabriel Agbonlahor shot wide early on but Spain went ahead when David Villa wriggled through John Terry and Phil Jagielka before a clinical finish.
Fernando Llorente powered in a header to confirm Spain's superiority.
David Beckham came on for his record-equalling 108th England cap and set up Carlton Cole late on but the striker's effort was cleared off the line.
It was England's first defeat in nine games and the manner of the loss will give manager Fabio Capello a closer idea of the task ahead.
There was no repeat of the racist abuse some of England's players endured when these two sides met in 2004 and, instead, the focus could be on the football.
Capello has made a point of picking players on merit rather than reputation and his stance nearly paid off immediately at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville.
Gareth Barry crossed from the left for Villa team-mate Agbonlahor but the striker volleyed narrowly wide.
Barry then headed a Stewart Downing corner wide before Emile Heskey was cynically fouled when he would have been clean through on goal, although he was wrongly given offside.
But the early England promise quickly evaporated as Spain found their passing rhythm and, at times, toyed with the visitors.
Everton's Jagielka was making his first England start and facing Fernando Torres of Liverpool for a fourth time in the past four weeks.
The centre-back had come out on top in their previous duels and, when Torres created a sight of goal for himself, it was Jagielka who flung himself to block the striker's shot and also clear after a David James fumble.
But Spain could also call on Euro 2008 Golden Boot winner, Villa, who profited from Jagielka's error that led to Spain's opener.
His stray pass found Alonso, who in turn fed Villa and he surged past John Terry and Jagielka before expertly side-footing home.
The sight and danger of Spain's front two highlighted England's lack of a proven goalscorer, despite Heskey's nuisance factor and Agbonlahor's pace.
Spain were in their stride and, after a Villa shot was blocked by Terry, Alonso struck a powerful shot but off target.
There was a regality about the Spanish midfield, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta stroking the ball around with ease.
Barry and Michael Carrick were in the centre of England's midfield to nullify Spain but the pair had little impact and spent most of the game chasing their rivals.
The raft of substitutions at half-time included Beckham's as he drew level on 108 caps for an outfield player with Sir Bobby Moore.
And Beckham's precise cross-field pass found Shaun Wright-Phillips, who cut inside from the left to create a chance only to see his shot saved at the second attempt by Pepe Reina.
England's misery was compounded when Llorente rose above Matthew Upson to force a header home from Xavi's diagonal free-kick.
Cole had an effort cleared off the line by Carlos Marchena late on, but if Capello wanted to know how far his side were from being world beaters, he found out there was still plenty of work to do.
Spain: Casillas (Reina 46), Sergio Ramos, Pique, Albiol (Marchena 75), Capdevila (Arbeloa 46), Alonso, Senna, Iniesta, Xavi (Guiza 84), Torres (Llorente 64), Villa (Silva 56).
Subs Not Used: Busquets, Riera, Juanito, Santi Cazorla.
Goals: Villa 36, Llorente 82.
England: James (Green 46), Johnson, Ashley Cole, Carrick, Jagielka (Upson 46), Terry, Wright-Phillips, Barry (Lampard 46), Heskey (Crouch 46), Downing (Beckham 46), Agbonlahor (Carlton Cole 75).
Subs Not Used: Bridge, Ferdinand, Hart, Milner, Ashley Young, Luke Young.
Ref: Stephane Lannoy (France).