Spain's coach Luis de la Fuente. AFP
Let the games begin
A look at LaLiga

Let the games begin

When you look at the list of favourites for the upcoming Euros you might have to scroll a bit to find Spain, writes columnist Rob Palmer

Rob Palmer, ESPN commentator


Friday, 14 June 2024, 13:17

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When you look at the list of favourites for the upcoming Euros, you'll need to scroll down a little to find Spain.

This is just as Luis de la Fuente will want it; unfancied, underestimated, and free from expectation.

England are the bookies favourites for one reason. Betting is a mugs' game and England has more mugs than most nations when it comes to gambling. Gareth Southgate has a decent team, but France clearly have the most impressive and deepest squad of accomplished players.

It's an unremarkable edition of the Spanish selection, yet the team does have balance and an impressive blend of youth and experience.

Unai Simón is the undisputed number one goalkeeper, with Arsenal's David Raya as back-up.

The defence can boast two fresh Champions League winners in Dani Carvajal and Nacho: one scored a goal in the Wembley final; the other lifted the trophy. The centre of defence is imported from France. Both Aymeric Laporte and Robin Le Normand were born just over the border, but qualify to play for Spain.

There's not a better central midfielder in the world than Rodri. He will be flanked by Barcelona's Pedri on one side and Paris Saint Germain's Fabián Ruiz on the other. We're building a very decent team here - and as we approach the forward line it's getting even better. Nico Williams can build on an outstanding season with Athletic Bilbao by stepping up a level. Lamine Yamal is the most exciting teenage footballer in Europe; the 16-year-old won't be fazed by the tournament. This pair will be the envy of most nations.

The one position that is still open is the central striking role. Álvaro Morata is usually the chosen one, but needs to recover from a quiet end of season in front of goal. Ferran Torres hardly gets a look-in at Barcelona, yet his record for Spain is impressive - he's scored 19 goals in 41 internationals, so comes under serious consideration. The other option is Joselu who has been instrumental in Real Madrid's Liga and Champions League double.

It is a balanced and formidable starting XI with very decent back up. Mikel Oyarzabal reminded everyone of his abilities with four goals in two games against Andorra and Northern Ireland, plus Ayoze Pérez who won a place in the squad with a goal against Andorra.

De la Fuente must be happy with his squad of players. He's only missing Gavi and Álex Balde who have been long-term injuries at Barcelona. He was questioned for not including the outstanding Pau Cubarsí, but I think he should be lauded for not over-playing a 17-year-old who only emerged in the second half of the season - and he does have the Olympics to grow his experience.

I'd quite fancy Spain to make it to the semi-finals and exceed expectations. France are my favourites given their party of superstars and A coach who is a master at international level. Of course I want England to succeed but think they will be drained by hope and will not find glory.

My outsiders are Switzerland. I've covered their group in the qualifiers where they peaked early and then fizzled out when qualification was almost assured. Granit Xhaka is a winner; they have an excellent goalkeeper, defence, and midfield. Their only weakness was the lack of a striker, but Zeki Amdouni is one to watch out for - he shook off a season unsuccessfully fighting relegation with Burnley to look super-sharp in the warm-up games.

Sit back and enjoy the summer of soccer - and let the games begin.

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