FIFA World Ranking:
v. Italy – June 10th – (Gdansk)
v. Republic of Ireland – June 14th – (Gdansk)
v. Croatia – June 18th – (Gdansk)
The road to the championship:
As expected, reigning European champions Spain were not troubled in the slightest during their qualifying campaign, winning all eight of their matches and finishing 11 points ahead of nearest rivals Czech Republic.
La Furia Roja’s all-time leading goal scorer David Villa topped the goal-scoring charts in Group I, netting seven in as many appearances; however he looks set to miss the tournament proper after breaking his tibia during Barcelona’s Club World Cup triumph last December.
With the Czech’s being the only team who could provide Spain with a genuine challenge in the qualifying stage, expect them to step up a gear come June/July at EURO 2012.
Champions – 1964, 2008
Xavi Hernandez – The heartbeat of both Spain and Barcelona, EURO 2008 player of the tournament Xavi dictates the tempo of play in central midfield with his passing accuracy and his distinct eye for a defence-splitting pass. Together with Andres Iniesta – his partner in crime at both national team and club level – Xavi will be one of the major reasons why Spain will dominate possession in each match.
David Silva – One of the biggest reasons for Manchester City’s success this season has been due to the outstanding play of creative midfielder David Silva. Despite having similar characteristics as the aforementioned Xavi, Silva is capable of playing in a more advanced role and is known for his goal-scoring ability. He should start in a midfield full of world-class talent, and there is no doubt his incisive through-balls and ability to beat players in one-on-one situations will cause opposition defences major headaches.
Player to watch out for:
Fernando Llorente – A physically-imposing target man, the Athletic Bilbao striker is being chased by some of the biggest clubs in the world following his performances both in La Liga and the UEFA Europa League. Despite his tall frame, he is exceptional with the ball at his feet and is a lethal finisher. Will battle for a spot in the starting XI in a side full to the brim of attacking talent, but definitely has what it takes to score goals at major international tournaments. Look out for him come June.
Vicente del Bosque – A manager with a pedigree as good as any, Del Bosque guided Spain to their first ever World Cup win in 2010 playing an easy on the eye possession-based brand of football after taking the job from EURO 2008-winning coach Luis Aragones.
He has also continues to maintain harmony in a dressing room that was often seen to be divided; due to the huge Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry.
Classic EURO moment:
Under the tutelage of Luis Aragones, Spain finally delivered on their promise as a footballing nation, winning the European Championships in 2008 after defeating Germany in the final 1-0 thanks to a solitary Fernando Torres goal.
With Xavi and Andres Iniesta pulling the strings in midfield and David Villa and Fernando Torres rotating up front, Spain were able to pass opposition teams out of matches to claim their second European triumph.
While no doubt Germany and Holland have closed the gap on the Spaniards in the past few years, they have far too much quality both on the field and in terms of depth with a bench that would walk into the starting line-ups of most other teams in the tournament. Shouldn’t have too much of a problem getting out of Group C, however a meeting with Cesare Prandelli’s Italy will certainly give them a difficult game early on.
It would not be a surprise to see them go back-to-back with a style of football that can be virtually impossible to counter-act.
upstart is previewing each of the final teams in the lead up to the EURO 2012. Tomorrow’s team: Italy.