Between 2008 and 2012, Spain dominated the world of football and ended up winning three major international tournaments back-to-back. Their impeccable first FIFA World Cup victory in 2010 was sandwiched between their Euro conquests with Luis Aragones and Vicente Del Bosque respectively. Several legends like Iker Casillas, Carles Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva, and David Villa were at the peak of their careers and there was no shortage of silverware for La Roja.
2014 onwards the story has been a little different. Following their humiliating World Cup group stage exit in Brazil, Spain also suffered Round of 16 exits at Euro 2016 in France and at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Spain haven’t been able to emulate their success from the early half of the last decade.
However, under Luis Enrique, they have been trying to rebuild from scratch. Despite just one win, they finished on top of Group E before setting up a Round of 16 clash with the 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia. The match between Spain and Croatia proved to be a nail-biting thriller with Croatia scoring two late goals to draw the game level at 3-3. In extra time, La Roja took the lead once again through Alvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal and the blockbuster fixture ended 5-3 in favour of Spain.
Former Spanish footballer Jofre Mateu is confident that Luis Enrique’s side has everything to play for at Euro 2020. “It’s probably more important [for Spain to win the title] than for others. But we are coming from a not so good result at the World Cup. It looks like we are making a project for the future with plenty of young players who can be a great team,” he said.
Jofre Mateu is a product of the famed Barcelona La Masia academy and he further suggested that despite having several players with immense potential, they are yet to click as a group.
“We have players like Alvaro Morata, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Koke, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, Thiago Alcantara and Pedri – when you say these names it’s like wow! But you still need to mix it up, they need to play together and find that spark. This is yet to happen. If it does not click now, then it can in the next 2-3 years,” he added.
Spain suffered massive setbacks at the very start of their European campaign when Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente tested positive for Coronavirus and the entire squad had to be put into isolation and tested repeatedly.
“Enrique chose only 24 players, two less than the maximum of 26 players. And then two of them were down with COVID-19 very close to the start of the competition. Spain started without a captain and it looked like the side began without a proper feeling flow.
“It was not the best situation for Enrique and his men to start. They have played with high pressure and probably kept the ball too much. They tend to want to keep the ball more than they want to create chances. They could take some risks,” concluded Jofre.