Then the Three Lions could not get a false impression of their current status, or run away with the idea the gap between themselves and the top teams in the world is now pretty small.
For, as Spain proved, there is still plenty of work ahead if England are to challenge properly in South Africa next year.
"Yes," was Capello's unequivocal answer when asked whether if the 2-0 defeat would be the game his players learned most from this year.
"Spain are the European champions and a very good team. I have learned a lot."
It was not so much a gulf in quality Spain exposed. Apart from Phil Jagielka's inexplicable error in playing the ball into a midfield area occupied only by Spanish players to create the opening for David Villa's first-half strike, England acquitted themselves reasonably well.