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Spain’s growing appetite for success

June 27, 2011

Spain’s victory in the European Under-21 championship on Saturday provided further evidence that the Iberian nation’s pre-eminence in world soccer may continue for some time yet.

Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara’s audacious 40-metre freekick sealed a 2-0 final victory over Switzerland in Denmark and the side’s performance throughout the tournament had Spain’s senior team boss Vicente del Bosque purring with satisfaction.

“The championship proves what a great moment Spanish football is in,” said the man who led Spain to victory in the World Cup finals in South Africa last year.

“They have done excellent work and there is no doubt that the next generation of players is in great shape. It’s nice to know that when the moment arrives we will be able call on them.

“The World Cup and Euro 2008…of all the good things that have come from winning these titles we have to highlight the adoption of a style of play and the sowing of a winning character. Spain has gained an appetite for winning.”

As in South Africa, Spain dominated possession in every game and were praised for their stylish brand of attacking football. Deportivo Coruna striker Adrian Lopez came away with the Golden Boot award for his five goals in the tournament.

Strangely, the powerhouses of Spanish club football, Barcelona and Real Madrid, seem unmoved by their success and appear to be looking mainly abroad to fill gaps in their squads.

Midfield playmaker Thiago’s future is uncertain at Barcelona as Pep Guardiola’s side seem intent on convincing Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas to return as the long-term replacement for Xavi.

Barca have also linked being linked with multi-million euros moves for Udinese’s Chilean striker Alexis Sanchez and Villarreal’s Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi.

Real Madrid have already landed Turkish midfielders Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop, and rather than Spanish youngsters, the front pages of the Madrid-based sports press have been full of pictures of 19-year-old Brazilian striker Neymar and 18-year-old French defender Raphael Varane.

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea has been heavily tipped to be Manchester United’s replacement for Edwin van der Sar, while Arsenal are being linked with interest in Juan Mata.

That being said, if some of these Under-21 internationals do move abroad they will gain invaluable experience which will further strengthen Spain for the future.

Spanish players were not known to be great travellers before the advent of the so-called ‘Spanish Armada’ in the middle of the last decade when Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Fernando Torres, Gerard Pique, Pepe Reina and Fabregas, among others, all tried their luck in the English Premier League, some enjoying more success than others.

That exodus was a prelude to their recent successes. Is a new batch about to set sail?

PHOTO: Spain’s Juan Mata and Thiago Alcantara (L) celebrate victory over Switzerland in their European Under-21 Championship final soccer match in Aarhus, June 25, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Staples.

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