Euro 2020 is creeping ever closer, and Spain head into the tournament looking to reclaim the crown they lost in 2016.
Spain won consecutive European Championships in 2008 and 2012, either side of their World Cup victory in 2010. But by the time the last Euros came around, that was a squad in decline and after limping through their group they fell to Turkey in the Round of 16.
Now five years hence, with a new-look side almost wholly revamped under the guidance of Luis Enrique (the last man to win a Champions League with Barcelona), they will be confident that they have what it takes to make the difference.
The best players Spain are bringing to Euro 2020:
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
The Spanish national team goalkeeper seems to be a cursed spot in that anyone who gets the role or comes near it sees their form dip. None of the three choices to mind the net are in fantastic form, but David de Gea will probably get the job and Spain will be asking that he finally delivers some of that Manchester United magic in a Spain shirt.
Defence: Sergio Ramos
In defence, it can be none other than Sergio Ramos, right? An international veteran of over 15 years and near ever-present during Spain’s golden era, Ramos is now chasing his first international trophy as captain as well as his 200th cap for Spain. He can be a ropey defender himself but has an organisational ability and leadership power that could really galvanise the Spanish under Luis Enrique, and of course one cannot forget his ability to score key goals, especially from the penalty spot.
While Barcelona’s sensation Pedri could start for Spain at the tender age of 18, the key man in that midfield has to be Rodri. The Manchester City midfielder has calmly and quietly taken over from Sergio Busquets as the chief conductor of the Spanish side, and he should arrive at Euro 2020 as a Premier League champion to boot. Rodri is a solid defender and a superb passer that knows when to press, when to sweep and when to spray the ball forward to his playmakers; he will have Luis Enrique’s side humming with harmonious rhythm come the summer.
Attack: Ferran Torres
The nature of Luis Enrique’s side means selecting a key man up top is difficult but as much as it could be Alvaro Morata leading the line or Ansu Fati if he recovers from injury in time, it’s Ferran Torres who has been doing the damage recently. The youngster bagged a hat-trick against Germany in November and his production for Man City, especially in the Champions League, marks him out as a potentially prolific wing-forward at Euro 2020. The intelligence of his movement coupled with the crispness of his shooting technique gives him a great chance to bag the goals that Spain will need to make their possession count for something.
The head coach:
Luis Enrique is on his second spell as Spain boss, having first been given the job back in 2018 after Spain’s debacle at the 2018 World Cup where they sacked Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament. His first spell saw them play six games, winning four of them. At the start of 2019 he stepped down to tend to a family matter, with the implication being that one day he would return to the role.
That day came in late 2019, after his assistant Roberto Moreno had led the team through Euro 2020 qualification. With Lucho back in charge Spain looked more ropey. However, they put in a masterclass in the 6-0 win against Germany at the end of 2020, and have since made an unbeaten start to World Cup qualifying.
Lucho has no international management experience at major tournaments, but he guided Barcelona to a treble in 2015 so his ability to handle the big stage and get his team to deliver on his plans is unquestioned. He could be just the man Spain need to get back on top.
Luis Enrique’s Spain have a largely uncomplicated style of playing that follows the passing blueprint set out by Pep Guardiola in 2008 and adopted for Spain by Vicente Del Bosque in 2009. De Gea will spray the ball out from the back (or try to) and get attacks started. Ball-playing centre-backs push possession forwards through midfield.
From here it is very familiar, as we’d expect a midfield loaded up with technical talent to dominate the ball as well as drive it forward to the wingers, who see more play under Luis Enrique than most Spain bosses. The former Blaugrana boss places an emphasis on direct, vertical play rather than extended bouts of possession. The likes of Fabian Ruiz and Pedri will be key to moving the ball through midfield swiftly.
Spain’s wingers are tasked with providing thrust and width but also are often also the nation’s most potent goal threat, as Germany found out to their dismay when Ferran Torres smashed a hat-trick past them. The fluid way Spain set up their front three should lead to goals across the board and a side as unpredictable and hard to stop as any other at Euro 2020.
The form guide
Euro 2020 Qualifying: WWDDWWWWWW
Spain breezed through their qualifying group with a near flawless record. They scored a staggering 31 goals and conceded just five, with a Josh King penalty for Norway being the only time they let a goal in at home. Their group’s strongest opponents were Sweden, who they beat at home and drew with away.
Recent fixtures: WWDWDDLWDWD
Under Luis Enrique, Spain have been less dominant in the new Nations League season and friendlies, albeit against a higher standard of opponent for the most part. They even conspired to lose away to Ukraine.
But they ended 2020 on an extreme high by firebombing Germany 6-0, unleashing the true potential of Lucho’s Spain, and booked their spot in 2021’s Nations League semi-finals. They kicked off World Cup qualifying with a disappointing draw with Greece, but successive wins against Georgia then Kosovo have Enrique’s men back on the right path.
Chances of winning:
Spain are not among the favourites for Euro 2020. They are at 7/1 to win Euro 2020 with Sky Bet, behind England, Belgium, France and Germany. It’s understandable given how shocking they were at Euro 2016 and their form over the last 12 months (the stellar win over Germany aside) has been decidedly unimpressive, full of draws and even that shocking defeat in Ukraine.
The thing is, marking Spain down low is strange because in all honesty this is a side absolutely loaded with talent and a coach who is furiously focused not so much on tactics but on fitness and intensity. That’s not to say Luis Enrique has no tactical invention, but his greatest strength will be to get the Spanish players fighting fit and fully believing they can win Euro 2020.
And as we saw with their golden generation: when Spain are on song there’s almost no team on earth that can stop them.