Spain To Reign Again

Euro 2012 has well and truly kicked off so there’s no better time to look at the favourites and my choice of the underdogs, well there probably is a better time before all the teams have a played a game but I missed that chance.

Vicente Del Bosque’s side are looking to add the Euro 2012 title to an impressive double of the World Cup, won in 2012, and Euro 2008, however no nation has ever won 3 consecutive major international tournaments.

La Roja enter the tournament as favourites for the title but it certainly won’t be plain sailing, the opening game, a 1-1 draw against Italy, looks like being the most difficult of the group stage but Slaven Bilic’s Croatian side are a strong attacking force and The Republic of Irleand are well organised under Giovanni Trapatoni.

Spain qualified for the tournament with a perfect record, 8 wins in 8 games, scoring 26 goals along the way. Top scorer during qualification, and all time top scorer for the national side, David Villa is out of the tournament recovering from a broken leg suffered at the FIFA World Club Cup in December.

A lack of striking options was clearly evident in the opening game of Group C in which, remarkably, Del Bosque started without a single striker. Struggling Fernando Torres sat on the bench before wasting a hatful of chances to seal victory, or add to his 27 goals, in the dying stages.

There may be a rethinking of tactics in the Spanish camp but if the coach does continue without a striker in the starting line up Spain may fail to light up Poland & Ukraine like previous tournaments. A strong contingent from Barcelona within the squad is sure to add the creativity needed for goal scoring chances.

The reigning World and European champion’s success has been down to their impressive ‘tiki-taka’ style of football synonymous with Barcelona and also the blend of youth and experience throughout the squad. Captain Iker Casillas, capped a record 131 times, is regarded as the world’s best ‘keeper and is gained huge experience at club level with Real Madrid and international level. The same theme runs through the midfield with Barcelona pair Andres Iniesta, 66caps, and Xavi, 111 caps, often running the show with their formidable partnership.

Spain may be favourites to win again but victory doesn’t look as clear cut as in the previous 2 tournaments they have taken back home with them. An exciting Dutch side, a rejuvenated France, overlooked Italians and as always reliable Germany make up the main competition for Spain. Del Bosque will need to find his best starting XI, striker inclusive or not, if he is to make history with arguably the best team in the world.

Sam Jewell

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