In for the long haul
The lack of a headline act probably means that Spain won't be among the bookies' favourites for Euro 2024 - but they're a team that shouldn't be underestimated
Friday, 20 October 2023, 16:11
Friday, 20 October 2023, 16:11
Spain's national team made it to the European Championship final with two games to go - yet nobody is getting carried away and predicting they will win the whole competition.
It's certainly the power of a team ethic rather than the influence of a world class individual.
England have Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane; Ronaldo is still leading Portugal; Kylian Mbappé is the King of France; and Luka Modrić gives Croatia the edge. All of the above are potential match-winners.
Spain has a fine assembly of footballers - but the only one who could be described as world-class is Rodri. He did score the winner in the Champions League final, yet his primary role is to destroy rather than create.
Credit must be given to coach Luis de la Fuente. It didn't look like he'd survive after the embarrassment of losing to Scotland in the second group game - and then he became embroiled in the Spanish FA furore following the Women's World Cup.
One of the biggest criticisms was his lack of personality and quiet demeanour. These traits probably saved his job as he kept a low profile amid the fireworks at HQ.
De la Fuente shares similar traits to Vicente del Bosque who led Spain to world domination. He's already won the Nations League so why not the Euros? It has been a clever build. Goalkeeper Unai Simon is the undisputed number one. Centre backs Robin Le Normand and Aymeric Laporte probably wouldn't be international players for most other leading European countries - which is why they chose their adopted nation over their birth nation, France. These three - with Rodri ahead of them - provide a strong foundation.
The great Spain teams were stimulated by the Barcelona creative forces of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta. In 2024 they'll have Gavi, Baldé, and hopefully Pedri will be fit and firing again.
Wonderkid Lamine Yamal will only be 17 years old - but the signs are encouraging that he'll be mature enough to handle an international tournament.
The main concern is the strike force. Neither Álvaro Morata nor Ferran Torres strike fear into the hearts of the opposition, yet their goal ration for Spain is impressive. Morata has 34 goals in 67 appearances and Torres has scored 17 goals, winning 37 caps.
The lack of a headline act probably means that they won't be among the bookie's favourites. This will suit De la Fuente and his young team. The coach may not be a big name. but his résumé is impressive. He's already won the Euros at Under 19 and Under 21 levels. He led the Olympic team to a silver medal and, as already mentioned, won the Nations League.
It's a team that shouldn't be underestimated. Apart from the blip in Scotland, they won every group game, outscoring the opposition by 19 goals to one.
Support your own country - but if you are to have a second team, invest in Spain. It looks like they're in there for the long haul.
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