Vicente del Bosque has all but confirmed that he will leave his role as Spain manager at the end of his side’s campaign at Euro 2016. The 64-year- old has enjoyed a successful reign with La Roja, winning the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 in a historic run for the country.
That generation of Spanish football sits among the icons of sport, such as Tiger Woods in golf, the Australian cricket team of the 2000s or the legendary Red Rum in horse racing. Del Bosque will now aim to bow out on the highest of notes by guiding Spain to their third triumph in a row at the European Championship in France. It will be a festival of football this summer – which is why we have suggested visiting France for the finals, and it promises to be unmissable.
Spain are backed at 1/33 in the latest betting odds to make it out of Group D and they are then 11/2 to secure the title and become the first nation in the history of the competition to win the crown four times. But will they make it?
Spain’s journey to the Euros
La Roja were handed a simple passage to the finals, with only Slovakia and the Ukraine to provide any resistance in their quest to compete in France.
Del Bosque’s men got off to a strong start with an impressive 5-1 demolition of Macedonia, but were pegged back in their second match in a 2-1 defeat to Slovakia. As a result, Spain dropped behind the Slovaks in Group C, but they were to respond by winning their next eight matches to secure their place in the finals. Spaniards will therefore be among the nationalities expected to be flooding to France this summer.
Their impressive run included a 2-0 triumph over Jan Kozak’s side to earn top spot due to a solid defensive effort as they conceded just three goals during their qualifying campaign.
Defence comes to fore
A stoic backline is not normally what you would think when you prepare to watch the Spaniards, but their defensive record was only bettered by Romania in qualifying. After conceding three goals in their opening two matches, Spain kept eight clean sheets on the bounce to earn their place in the finals.
La Roja boast one of the most experienced backlines in the continent heading into the tournament with Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos expected to anchor the defence.
Both players have been integral parts of their success over the past eight years and have over 200 caps between them, along with numerous La Liga and Champions League crowns to boot.
Real Madrid’s Ramos and Barcelona’s Pique may be playing the best football of their career which could be a huge factor in a competition which is low on quality at the back, giving Spain an advantage over their nearest rivals for the title.
Midfield maestros to continue dominance
The strength of Spain’s triumphant teams of the 2010 World Cup and the 2008/2012 Euros was the quality of their midfield. Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets ensured that La Roja dominated the world by controlling the middle of the park with incisive passing.
Spain will be without Xavi following his retirement from international football, but Iniesta and Busquets remain along with an abundance of quality players such as Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Juan Mata.
Koke and Thiago Alcantara will be desperate to make their mark on a major tournament following their fine displays at club level, although they might have to watch their teammates continue to thrive from the bench.
Spain were dumped out of the 2014 World Cup in the group stage as their midfield struggled to find their rhythm.
Their stars in the middle of the park will be desperate to atone for their underwhelming displays in Brazil and stamp their authority back on the international stage at a major tournament.
Since the declines of David Villa and Fernando Torres, Spain have struggled to find a replacement to fire in front of goal.
Villa was La Roja’s key man at Euro 2008 and at the World Cup two years later, notching a combined nine goals in the tournaments, while Torres picked up the mantle in 2012 netting four strikes at the Euros.
As age got the better of both players, Del Bosque turned to Diego Costa to lead the line for his team in Brazil following an impressive season for Atletico Madrid. Costa had been in sensational form and was hot property. That saw the striker attract a lucrative deal as an ambassador for adidas and he would go on to move to Chelsea after the World Cup.
However, the forward failed to connect with his teammates on the pitch during the finals, despite earning a penalty in their crushing 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands. Costa’s form has not improved at international level since, notching just one goal in 10 appearances, while he has also been inconsistent at Chelsea this season.
Paco Alcacer led the line during qualifying and found the net five times, although three of those strikes came against Luxembourg. The 22-year- old has hardly been prolific at Valencia this season with just 11 goals to his name in all competitions, leaving Del Bosque short of strikers in form heading into the competition.
Can Spain deliver for their legendary boss?
There is enough talent on paper for La Roja to secure another European crown but there still remain questions about whether their talented side can find their rhythm in France.
Del Bosque deserves to go out on a high note, and his players should be determined to help him be remembered for his triumphs rather than a second disappointment on the bounce.