surinenglish

A LOOK AT LA LIGA

Champagne football

Jordi Alba and Sarabia.
Jordi Alba and Sarabia. / KIKO HUESCA
  • Luis Enrique's young team finally came of age and were treated to a chorus of 'Ole'

Spain did explode like a bottle of Cava, just as coach Luis Enrique predicted, however, to ultimately become the champions of Europe again, they need to play the champagne football of the French.

To be more accurate, they need to produce a vintage in a class of Valpolicella, Italy's finest wine (yes, I googled it).

The national team are finally at one with its people after smashing Slovakia. Luis Enrique's young team finally came of age and were treated to a chorus of 'Ole' as they tormented their final group opponents in the Sevilla sunshine.

Now it's Croatia who were hit for six when they visited Elche in 2018, just a few months after playing in the World Cup Final. It's amazing that none of the scorers from that Nations League fixture will be playing in Copenhagen. Spain have undergone a complete overhaul whilst half a dozen of Croatia's side are still relied upon.

We know how good Croatia have been, we'll soon find out how good Spain's next generation can be.

For years we wondered if the Gerard Pique/Sergio Ramos partnership would ever be replaced. Now we have Aymeric Laporte who scored his first international goal against Slovakia alongside a choice of Barcelona bound Eric Garcia or Pau Torres who will have a choice of Europe's top club's when he leaves humble Villarreal.

Barcelona's teenager Pedri is developing as the tournament advances and Pablo Sarabia marked an impressive first start with a goal. Whoever would have thought that Spain would be the underdogs?

To reach the final they would have to beat Croatia and then it's most likely to be France in the quarter finals and either Belgium, Portugal or Italy in the semi-final.

The other half of the draw appears to be a little less difficult to manoeuvre. The stand-out fixture is England versus Germany. Joachim Löw dug deep into his vast experience to steal the required draw against fired-up Hungary. Germany ended the draw with six forwards on the field as he had to go for bust.

It's like the Michael Jordan documentary 'The Last Dance'. Do the veterans have enough to see of Gareth Southgate's 'Young Lions'?

I think the England coach has maximised an over-hyped squad. For me, his masterstroke was grounding Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell when they reunited their friendship with Chelsea teammate Billy Gilmour for a few minutes too many after the Scotland game. It wasn't necessary to isolate them for mixing with a player who tested positive for Covid but it sent out a message that rules must not be broken. It also opened up a couple of slots for players to get game-time.

It's developing into a classic tournament. Luis Enrique and Southgate are winning over their detractors and are also competing for the best dressed award. The Spain coach is apparently sporting €600 trousers on the touchline.

Spain's main weakness is similar to England's. The island nation will fear a penalty shoot-out at Wembley.

Four different players have missed the last five penalties in succession. Spain will be shaking on the spot.