first_imgSpain started their dream run after Luis Aragones led them to glory at the Euro 2008 title that ended their 44-year wait for a major trophy. Spain never looked back from then. Under Vicente del Bosque, they went to on win the coveted 2010 World Cup and clinched their second successive title at the European Championships in 2012. (Euro 2016 – Full Coverage)Del Bosque’s men were a force to be reckoned with in world football and their ability to sustain success was a testimony to their domination. Again, in 2014, Spain were looking for another two-in-two, this time at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. However the defending champions crashed out of the tournament without even entering the knockout stages after a humiliating 1-5 loss to Netherlands. Before they could realise what hit them, their dream was over. (Also read: Tricky tests await Spain’s history seekers) ROAD TO THE FINAL STAGESCut to 2016, two years after their dramatic exit, Spain have not been on the top of their game but have inspired enough confidence from their fans. The defending champions, who topped their group in the qualifiers with nine wins from 10 matches, spent some time in Austria preparing for the European Championships. They faced an initial hurdle in the form of a shocking defeat against lowly-ranked Slovakia. Spain though saw the defeat as a wake-up call and went on to win all the matches that followed. However, uninspiring draws against Italy and Romania forced the bookmakers to rate them the third favourites in the tournament behind hosts France and 2014 World Champions Germany. (Also read: Difficult for Spain to win third straight Euro title: Casillas) advertisementWHERE IS THE SPAIN WE GREW TO LOVE?Spain, unlike their European counterparts, have always banked on homegrown talent. The Iniestas, Xavis, Puyols and Villas were all playing for Spanish clubs. Take the case of the victorious 2010 World Cup winning squad – all but three men from the 23-member squad were plying their trade for the top clubs in the country. Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas and Pepe Reina were the only players who had played for English clubs. The Spanish players were able to adapt to the team culture easily as they were quite aware of their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.  Much of their success was attributed to the financial might of Real Madrid and Barcelona.  (Also read: Pedro backs Spain to cope with pressure at Euro 2016) Not much has  changed since then in the Spanish set-up. In fact, Spain are looking beyond Barcelona and Real and are tapping talents from Atletico and Sevilla.However, some of their key players this time like goalkeeper de Gea, Hector Bellerin, Alvaro Morata and Pedro Rodriguez, who ply their trade for clubs outside Spain. De Gea, who has been playing at United for the last four years, might not have the command the homegrown Casillas had over his backline over the years.     WILL SPAIN DO IT FOR del BOSQUE?This time, Spain’s hunger is likely to be motivated by their determination to put to death the horror memories of 2014 and prove they still have it in them to dominate world football. Also, it’s coach Del Bosque’s last hurrah and Spain are determined to do it for their special boss, one final time.The 65-year-old manager made quite a few unexpected calls with team selection and has assembled a squad which according to him is a mixture of fresh blood and veterans.BIG NAMES SNUBBEDThere is no place for Diego Costa in the team. The Chelsea striker has not been in the best form, scoring only one goal in the qualifiers. The World Cup and double European Champion Fernando Torres has been left out despite his splendid comeback season with Atletico Madrid.Diego Costa with Santi Cazorla. (Reuters Photo)   Del Bosque has instead opted for Juventus striker Morata to lead his frontline. However the 23-year-old striker found the net only 12 times in the domestic season and only once for his country. Other notable exclusions include Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla who have gone out of favour owing to their poor fitness. Del Bosque says he doesn’t want players who have been flirting with their fitness. The coach’s tactics of not including fully fit players was evident when he left out Costa for the friendlies earlier this year.THE CASILLAS-de GEA DILEMMACleary, de Gea has outclassed Casillas to become Spain’s first-choice goalkeeper. While the Manchester United goalkeeper has been on top of his game, the veteran Casillas made a move from Real Madrid to Porto, where he had failed to bring out his ‘A’ game.advertisementAlso, de Gea has been caught in a sex scandal in which he has been accused of trying to arrange a prostitute for five of his Manchester United teammates. Despite the goalkeeper’s denial, the text message scandal has haunting him since he was named in the case by a protected witness. (ALSO READ: De Gea’s sex scandal claims won’t affect Spain’s decision, says Pedro)However, del Bosque has backed his goalkeeper saying Spain had no intentions of sending de Gea home. It will be interesting to see whether del Bosque would start with de Gea in the game against Czech Republic today.WILL IT BE INIESTA’S PARTY?Andres Iniesta will be the go-to-man for del Bosque in this year’s campaign. The 32-year-old has been constantly providing the goods for Barcelona and is expected to light up their Euro campaign this year. Despite not having his best mate Xavi in the team, Iniesta is expected to pair with Sergio Busquets and give the game its colour in the midfield. It will be difficult for the opponents to stop Spain if Iniesta executes the tiki-taka style.At the backline, Spain have two solid defenders in Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique. Both of them have been in splendid form for their clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. They have brought in youth of the likes of Barcelona defender Marc Bartra on whom De Bosque has pinned his hopes on to provide solid cover for the veterans.Del Bosque has been there and done that. He says he expects a at least a semi-final finish for Spain. “Football must be played with pressure but also with dreams. Our dream is to play a great European Championships this year,” he had said.Not keeping in mind the immediate future, del Bosque has taken risks and has tried to infuse youth into the squad. These are signs the boss, who is likely to step down after the Euro campaign, has decided on the combination focussing not on the result but the process.last_img

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