As the reigning European champions; and indeed the winners of three of the past four major international tournaments, it is perhaps surprising that Spain are not more heavily fancied to win this summer’s European Championships. Disaster in Rio two years ago; after two consecutive Euro wins and a World Cup, signaled the end of an era as stars such as Xavi and Xabi Alonso played their final games for La Selección.
Spanish clubs continue to rule the roost at club level, as shown by the all Spanish Champions League Final and Sevilla’s Europa League victory, but Euro 2016 presents a unique challenge to Vicente Del Bosque as the manager heads into his final tournament.
With Del Bosque expected to retire, he would have been hoping to avoid controversy with his final squad selection, but was not so lucky. His omission of Atlético Madrid’s Saul; scorer of a wonderful solo goal against Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid’s Isco, when trimming his squad at the final stage, attracted attention, whilst other big names such as Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Diego Costa and Paco Alcacer missed out.
Whilst the tiki-taka style still remains to an extent, its importance has been massively reduced. With Del Bosque returning to a preference for a striker after several years of experimenting with a 4-6-0 formation, the style of play has adapted to utilise much more quick, long ball, counter-attacking football.
Still favouring to play out from the back, the Spanish side still retain the basis of their identity as a ‘pass and move’ side, but they are now also showing signs of evolution.
So, who will be vital to the hopes of La Roja? Over the next few pages, we will look at three players who will play a vital role in any chance that the Spanish side have of winning the Championships in neighbouring France this summer.