As the 2016 European Championship dawns, we cast our memories back to 2012, back when Spain comprehensively defeated Italy 4-0 in Kiev. In those days, the ‘Tiki-Taka’ style of play was in its prime due to its success at the likes of FC Barcelona and the national side inherited this in a very effective manner. The calibre of players they had at their disposal too made them an inherent force to be reckoned with. Legends such as Casillas, Xavi, and Xabi Alonso graced the pitch to create history.
It seems though, that those days have long since been forgotten. Players started to age and the newer and more fresh players did not live up to the dynasty behind them. The 2014 FIFA World Cup soon approached and the World Champions produced one of the weakest defences to the trophy since its inauguration. Despite thrashing minnows Australia 3-0, they collapsed in the first match to The Netherlands and then to Chile. Everyone thought that stars such as Diego Costa – who changed allegiance at the last minute to play for Spain- and other legends such as Iniesta, Alonso and Xavi could help recreate former glories. However, it was evident that age had played its part and what once was a fresh, crisp team soon looked like a rotten version of its former self.
Attentions now turn to Euro 2016 in June and the Spanish squad has undergone some major renovations. Legends have retired and new stars must step up to the plate. In goal, it is expected that David de Gea will be Spain’s number 1 goalkeeper. The Manchester United Player of the Year has had a fantastic season between the sticks and despite having legend Iker Casillas as potential competition, he should start.
The Spanish defence has in fact remained relatively similar to that of years gone by with Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique expected to start at the back. Marc Bartra should also gain some valuable experience over the course of the competition, leaving Vincente del Bosque with a potential selection dilemma. Centre-back will not be the only position of dispute, however, as the calibre of full backs available to del Bosque is to be envied by teams across the globe. On the left, there is a choice between Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba, both have had solid seasons for Chelsea and Barcelona respectively. Alba, with the pace at his disposal, will probably gain the edge over Azpilicueta due to the importance that pace now holds in today’s game but expect Azpilicueta to feature. At right back, there is a choice of Hector Bellerin or Juanfran. Again both have had solid seasons at Arsenal and Atletico Madrid. This will be the biggest dilemma del Bosque will have as both players have proved they are worthy of starting.
The midfield talent that Spain possess speaks for itself. With Busquets, Iniesta, Koke, David Sliva and Cesc Fabregas all on the plane, its a simple case of take your pick’. Even then, there are players such as Bruno, Pedro, Thiago Alcantara and Isco who are also willing to impress. With Busquets and Iniesta odds on to start, it is a case of who partners them and there are no bad choices.
The attacking options available are a lot different to past years. With Aduriz, Nolito and Alvaro Morata, Vasquez and Saul Niguez all having excellent seasons there is already a dilemma. All things considered, Aduriz and Morata are most likely the two to prominently feature; Aduriz for his experience and ability in the air, and Morata for his raw finishing ability.
With those dilemmas in mind, here are just two ways in which Spain could line up in France:
Team 1 (4-1-2-1-2): De Gea, Alba, Ramos, Pique, Carvajal, Busquets, Iniesta, Koke, David Silva, Morata, Aduriz
Team 2 (4-3-3): De Gea, Azpilicueta, Ramos, Bartra, Juanfran, Busquets, Iniesta, Fabregas, Nolito, Aduriz, Pedro
Looking at both these teams, both seem solid with a healthy mix of experience and youth. The squad picked by del Bosque seems to be balanced and built for success. Will they win the competition? That’s dependent on how other teams perform as there are arguably stronger teams in the competition, however, it is possible.
With the European Championship round the corner, all we can do is wait and see if Spain can shake off the demons of an atrocious World Cup campaign in 2014.
Predicted finish: Semi-Finals.