Spain are heavily fancied for Euro 2008, but problems remain
I’m a bit worried about Spain. I’m not talking about the credit crunch, rising unemployment and the end of the housing boom here, I’m talking about their chances at Euro 2008.
When the draw took place last year, the Spanish press were celebrating that la selección had avoided the European big guns, but as the tournament has drawn near it has dawned on many that making the last 16 may not be such an easy task.
Even without Andrei Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak, Russia look like dangerous opponents, Sweden have been forewarned about Spain’s strengths having come across them in qualifying, while Greece are probably a more complete and versatile side than the one that won the tournament four years ago.
Spain also cannot seem to find a place for Cesc Fabregas, one of the Premier League’s most outstanding players in recent seasons, while the team’s over-elaborate build-up play does not provide Fernando Torres with the sort of service that allowed him to have such a great season at Liverpool.
They have a talented and skilful midfield, but the team seem to have no plan B if things go wrong and they concede an early goal.
It is not a problem that Raul was left out, but I do think it was a mistake not to bring Guti to Austria and a shame Bojan is not here. The Real Madrid midfielder is the sort of player who can provide a quick pass on the break and has the vision to change the course of a game. The Barcelona prodigy could have added that edge of unpredictability to the side which makes them candidates to win the tournament.
Spain may also feel isolated and over-relaxed in their Austrian mountain retreat in Neustift, the sort of place where you expect to see a smiling Julie Andrews skipping across the hillsides.
There’s also the seemingly fatalistic slogan on the team bus: “Pase lo que pase, España siempre” (Whatever happens, always Spain) and I’m even a little negative about the fact that the majority of England fans (accustomed to experiencing so many disappointments) are reported to have adopted Spain as their team in the tournament.
So after all this, explain why Spain will cast off their reputation as perennial underachievers and win the tournament 44 years after their only previous triumph.