Can Spain regain former glory? Assessing La Roja’s squad for Euro 2020
Questions were raised when Luis Enrique decided to leave Sergio Ramos out of Spain’s squad for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2020 despite having two extra slots to fill. The decision may be a bold one, but it seems to be a decisive call from a footballing perspective. Injuries plagued the 35-year-old’s 2020/21 season, with him making a mere five appearances for Real Madrid in 2021.
Spain is no longer the all-conquering force they used to be during their golden era. The absence of Carles Puyol-like players has exposed their defence more often than not in recent international matches. Similarly, their midfield has lost its creative edge that defined their game following the retirement of legends like Xavi and playmaker Andres Iniesta.
The first crack in Spain’s armour began to show in the 2014 FIFA World Cup itself when they failed to qualify for the knockout rounds. They lost to Italy in the round-of-16 of Euro 2016 before getting knocked out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup by hosts Russia.
As they head into Euro 2020, La Roja will be keen to restore their reputation and good name by putting on solid performances under the tutelage of Luis Enrique. They have been pitted in Group E alongside Poland, Slovakia and Sweden and should make it to the knockout stage.
Spain squad for Euro 2020
Goalkeepers: Unai Simon, David de Gea, Robert Sanchez
Defenders: Jose Gaya, Jordi Alba, Pau Torres, Aymeric Laporte, Eric Garcia, Diego Llorente, Cesar Azpilicueta
Midfielders: Marcos Llorente, Sergio Busquets, Rodri, Pedri, Thiago, Koke, Fabian, Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia
Forwards: Gerard Moreno, Alvaro Morata, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore, Mikel Oyarzabal
SWOT analysis of Spain Euro 2020 squad
If one has to pick, the midfield of the current squad is where the team can take any game up a notch. In Sergio Busquets, Thiago and Koke, La Roja have some experienced names capable of controlling the game from the center of the park besides also dictating the tempo of contests.
Are Spain the favourites to win Euro 2020? It’s a long shot, and most of it depends on how well relative newcomers like Aymeric Laporte and Adama Traore will perform in a new environment. Furthermore, while Spain are missing Ramos, their defensive unit looks robust on paper. One cannot overlook the kind of form the likes of Pau Torres and Cesar Azpilicueta have shown with both centre-backs playing crucial roles for their club’s European successes in the recently concluded season.
Gerard Moreno deserves a special mention too. The Villarreal striker was exceptional in the 2020/21 season, scoring 30 goals in all competition. In Ferran Torres and Traore, Spain have some great crossers of the ball, and it is safe to say Moreno along with Alvaro Morata will indeed enjoy the service.
While Spain are not lagging in individual brilliance, team chemistry remains a big concern. Apart from that, Enrique’s decision of having 24 players instead of 26 could cause trouble if injuries have their say closer to the start of the tournament. One injury to any of their central defenders and Spain could be in big trouble. The quality of their squad depth and bench strength could also hurt them since it’s nowhere close to the caliber of some of their past squads.
Furthermore, Spain does not have a match-winner like Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo or Harry Kane in their squad. La Roja may progress to the knockout stage, but their climb will only get steeper the further they progress.
Lastly, David de Gea may look like an outright goalkeeping option for his moments of magic and brilliant reaction saves, but the Manchester United keeper has shown his flaws in distribution - a big contradiction to Spain’s possession-based philosophy. A lack of a strong leader of Ramos’ ilk is another factor that can haunt them.
Spain are the only team in Group E who will play their group stage games on home turf, and this is where they can make it count. With fans returning for Euro 2020 in large numbers, Spain will have their 12th man right there. Apart from that, one can count on Spain to go beyond their group comprising Poland, Slovakia and Sweden.
If Enrique can get his attack and defence to function smoothly with their strong midfield, Spain could surprise many with a favourable draw in the knockouts, which they seem destined to qualify for.
Azpilicueta and Morata have combined well for Chelsea in the past and the latter has always cherished the wing-back’s services from wide areas during their time together at the club and international level. Morata will be one of his side’s biggest goal-threats and will want good service from the powerful Traore and other pacey wingers like Ferran who will be occupying the wide areas.
Going into Euro 2020, Spain can be safe in the knowledge that they have a plan B should their traditional possession-based style fail to create openings. More direct football with marauding fullbacks and wingers are common among Enrique sides and it remains to be seen if such tactics can help the Spaniards return to their glory days.
Featured photo: Twitter / Se Futbol