After failing to move past the group stage of the 2016 World Cup, Spain is out for blood in the Euro 2016 competition, ditching their usual penchant for team regularity in making some shock selections, are they back on track?
Zidedine Zidane once said ‘Once Spain start winning, they will not stop’, a proclamation made not long after yet another failure at an international tournament, Zidane saw something many thought was never really there, but then, everyone saw it, very, very clearly. Claiming the 2008 Euro competition, Spain revolutionized the game, showing Tiki-Taka to the world.
Quick passing, possession and constant movement, they dazzled their opponents and set about making Zidane’s prophesy come true. They rose to number one in the world rankings and became the powerhouse of world football, similar to Brazil, Germany and Holland before them. They then went on to claim to 2014 World Cup with their stars showing the world once more, not only why the world game is beautiful, but the beauty in the Spanish philosophy of the game.
Then, it all came apart. The stars didn’t shine, and they left Brazil with nothing but embarrassment. However, now, they are looking to change things and foster in a new era in national football which they hope will see them return to the top, where they do belong.
They’ve started this new era in a serious fashion, by sensationally dropping experience duo Juan Mata and Fernando Torres as well as the resurgent Diego Costa.
Mata can lay claim to be one of the few shining lights in a dark season for Manchester United, whereas Fernando Torres was extremely unlucky to not be given a spot in squad. Experiencing a renaissance at his boyhood club, Atletico Madrid, Torres has netted seven goals in his last ten games and is playing complete games in the same manner that he was when he was a world-beater with Liverpool and Spain.
Whilst Diego Costa had a less than impressive start to the year, under Guus Hiddink, he has netted ten goals late on in the season. Whilst unlucky to miss out on selection, all three men have missed out in place of younger options in the vein of; Saul, Koke, Isco, Thiago, Alvaro Morata and Lucas Vazquez respectively.
With the exclusion of the experienced trio, plus the retirement of past legends; Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa, Spain is well and truly entering a new phase.
Still playing their Tiki-Taka brand of football, Spain will have to rely on their youth, to see them through to the knockout stages of international football, where they expect to be every time.
However, with this being the first major litmus test of their new national team in a real pressure environment, the question must be posed, can they compete with the best consistently, or are they really in a new phase? Are they back on the path they were on prior to winning the Euro 2008?