SPAIN will be looking to bounce back from the embarrassment they suffered in the 2014 World Cup, as they travel to France seeking a third successive European Championship crown.
Confidence in the team may not be as high as in previous tournaments, but there is still a very high level of expectation. In an exclusive interview, Vincent Engonga, who won 14 caps for Spain in the late nineties, discussed his countries chances.
“There will always be an expectation for the Spanish team to go to the final and win the tournament. If we don’t win, it will be a disappointment.”
Spain still have plenty of quality at their disposal, but Engonga feels that a strong defence will be crucial in their bid to become the first team ever to win three successive titles.
“We have a strong team but how we do will depend on how we defend, so our key players this tournament will be Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. If they are both playing 100% in this tournament, then the competition will be a lot easier.”
Pique and Ramos have proven time and again that they perform best on the biggest stage. Their partnership, combined with the fantastic David De Gea, the reliable Sergio Busquets and the genius that is Andreas Iniesta, gives Spain a fantastic base on which to build a team around.
However, when we get into the knockout stages, strength in depth is vitally important, as is the ability to put the ball in the back of the net. It’s in these two areas where this squad looks particularly weak.
Much of the goal scoring pressure will fall onto the young shoulders of Alvaro Morata, who hasn’t been prolific during his short career so far. So if he fails to fire, who has Del Bosque brought with him, who can come off the bench and make a difference? Saul Niguez had a tremendous season at Atletico and Valencia striker Paco Alcacer was Spain’s leading goal scorer in qualifying, but both have been overlooked, along with proven performers like Juan Mata, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa.
David Silva and Pedro remain in the squad, but both suffered with form and fitness problems in the last Premier League campaign. They, along with Real Madrid youngster Lucas Vasquez, Celta’s Nolito and the 35 year old Artiz Aduriz, make up a surprisingly inexperienced and impotent attacking unit.
With the exception of Aduriz, who was the top Spanish scorer in La Liga last season, it’s hard to argue that these players add any particular attacking qualities to the squad. Spain are more than comfortable winning without a recognised striker, a tactic they used to great effect when winning this tournament in 2012, but when we get to the business end of the competition, their lack of impact players in the final third may be the difference between going home as disappointments or history makers.