Spain have enjoyed a host of successes in recent years, including back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012. They have been the European Champions for 8 years now, but unfortunately for La Roja, a different memory will be fresher in the minds of their fans; Spain’s humiliating exit from the opening round of the 2014 World Cup. Picking up only one win over Australia, Del Bosque’s players were dumped out of Brazil at the first hurdle. Fast forward two years, and as their first Euro 2016 game draws closer, can Spain reclaim their footballing pride and win an unprecedented third European Championship in a row?
Looking at Spain’s form since the aforementioned World Cup catastrophe, their results have been respectable. Winning all but one of their Group C qualifying matches, the Spanish topped their group with relative comfort. As well as this, Spain managed impressive displays in their friendlies against England in November 2015 and Italy in March this year, showing they could still be considered a dominant force in Europe. However other performances prior to the Euros might have raise a few question marks. Most recently, Spain were shocked to a 1-0 defeat by minnows Georgia. Sporadic slip-ups like this and against Slovakia during qualification should not affect Spain’s confidence too much though; they are still favourites in their group and, justifiably, tipped to progress far.
Spain arguably have one of the best defences in the tournament, with Champions League winner Sergio Ramos pairing up at the back with La Liga rival Gerard Pique, both of whom were present for Spain’s Euro 2012 campaign. Playing behind them could be one of two goalkeepers; likely, we will see Manchester United’s player of the season David De Gea starting in between the posts, but veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas, present for all three of Spain’s tournament wins since 2008, is still seen as a potential starter by Del Bosque. It will be interesting to see whether he will favour Casillas, who undoubtedly underperformed in Spain’s 2014 World Cup games, but prior to that had been such an essential member of Spain’s all-conquering squad.
One area that may be Spain’s weakness going into France is their striking options. Without Fernando Torres and David Villa, both of whom were present in the starting 11 for their past two Euro campaigns, Spain are more likely to start a sole striker, with Juventus’ Alvaro Morata or Aritz Aduriz of Athletic Bilbao being the key contenders. Morata, scorer of Juventus’ winning goal in this season’s Coppa Italia against AC Milan, has proven himself as a forward who is good in the air and with his feet, netting seven goals this season.
However, he is unproven on the international stage, having been capped just nine times with three goals to his name, and it is likely that Spain will be relying on goals more from attacking midfield players that will feature this summer, such as Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta. Similarly, 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz made his debut for Spain in 2010 and has since only made 6 appearances. However, Aduriz is coming off a superb season for Bilbao, in which he netted 20 times in La Liga, and is definitely worthy of a chance to play in the tournament given his prolific finishing this year.
Undeniably, Spain remain a team of the highest quality and a dreaded opponent to be drawn against. They will be missing some key players up top from their last European Championship campaign, but with their established back four playing behind midfielders of such quality like Sergio Busquets, Fabregas, Iniesta and co, they are certainly deserving of their status as a favourites to succeed in this tournament.
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