Since winning back-to-back European Championships with the 2010 World Cup title in between, Spain have been a flop at major football tournaments as the team’s aging veterans lost their luster. So, effectively, the famed "tiki-taka" is over, and Spain coach Luis Enrique is ready to move on. And the first task at hand is Euro 2020. As the fans there will surely know, Spain are capable of both big wins and big disappointments. They routed Germany 6-0 in the Nations League in November, but also drew 1-1 with Greece at home in a World Cup qualifying match in March. (More Football News)
GROUP AND FIXTURES
Spain are in Group E, along with Poland, Slovakia and Slovakia. All three of Spain's group matches will be played in front of some home fans in Seville — though limited in number because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their first match is against Sweden on June 14 and then face Poland on June 19 and Slovakia on June 23.
If Spain win the group, they face the third-place team from Group A or B or C or D in Glasgow. If they finish second, meet Group D runners-up in Copenhagen.
WHO TO WATCH
Enrique has experimented in practically every position all year, so new faces will be expected. The coach's new pool of attacking layers includes Manchester City’s Ferran Torres (21), Leipzig’s Dani Olmo (23), Barcelona’s Pedri Gonzalez (18), and Wolverhampton’s Adama Traore (25).
Then there are established players but still waiting for the moment in the sun. Aymeric Laporte, Thiago Alcantara, Alvaro Morata, Koke are all capable of producing consistent performance.
Enrique, who first took over the national team following the debacle at the 2018 World Cup, has not shied away from rejuvenating the squad with little-known players in their early 20s. He even left veteran Sergio Ramos off his squad after the injury problems the Real Madrid defender had this season.
And questions remain about who will carry the scoring load for a team that has been without a top striker since the international retirements of David Villa and Fernando Torres. Alvaro Morata has 19 goals in 39 appearances for Spain, but the Juventus striker has never excelled at a major tournament. Gerard Moreno scored 30 goals for Villarreal and helped the team win the Europa League this season, but even at the age of 29 he is still untested in a major competition. The same doubt goes for Mikel Oyarzabal, who helped Real Sociedad win the postponed 2020 Copa del Rey title in April. Barcelona phenomenon Ansu Fati is injured.
Even though veteran holdover Sergio Busquets can again anchor the midfield, he will be accompanied by more dynamic players who look more for a quick strike than the suffocating ball possession practiced by the great Spain teams of the past.
The major concern is their defense. Ramos, one of the main holdovers from the title-winning days, took the team’s penalty kicks and provided on-field leadership. With 180 games for Spain, Ramos has the most appearances for a European nation and had been on track to break Egypt player Ahmed Hassan’s world record of 184.
Enrique had already been worrying about who would fill the center of his four-man defense, and Ramos' absence makes that even harder. He has tried out City’s Eric Garcia and Villarreal’s Pau Torres. So the national team got a big boost when center back Aymeric Laporte switched allegiance from France to Spain, where he played for Athletic before joining City.
Unai Simon, Athletic's 23-year-old goalkeeper, has relegated David de Gea to a backup role. But Luis Enrique could be tempted to try something new in Spain’s friendly matches before the tournament starts.
Spain are a talented side with a capable boss, but they lack confidence. If they replicate the qualifying form, they can still make a ripple. They were undefeated in the qualifiers, winning eight and drawing two.
Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Robert Sanchez, Unai Simon
Defenders: Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta, Eric Garcia, Jose Luis Gaya, Aymeric Laporte, Marcos Llorente, Diego Llorente, Pau Torres
Midfielders: Thiago Alcantara, Sergio Busquets, Pedri Gonzalez, Rodri Hernendez, Koke Resurreccion, Fabian Ruiz
Forwards: Alvaro Morata, Gerard Moreno, Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal, Pablo Sarabia, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore.
(With AP inputs)