Fallen Giants

There is little doubt that the veil of invincibility around this Spanish team slipped in Brazil two summers ago when the Netherlands routed them 5-1 in their World Cup opener.

Ignominious exit followed for the then world champions and, when their eight-year unbeaten qualifying record tumbled against Slovakia early in this campaign, the reign of Spain appeared to be nearing an end.

It would be wrong, however, to pen the obituary of Vicente del Bosque’s team just yet.

That early setback in Zilina would turn out to be the only points Spain dropped in topping their group, where it was very much business as usual for the two-time defending European champions.

As if stung into action by the collapse of their 36-match unbeaten qualifying run, Spain would not concede another goal in the eight games that followed, far less drop any points.

Ukraine, alongside group runners-up Slovakia, were hard-working and stubborn opponents but they lacked the class – and ball possession – to further dent Spanish confidence.

At the height of their success in South Africa in 2010, this Spanish team was never defined by an ability to win handsomely. Rather, they smother opponents into submission by retaining possession endlessly and moving the points of attack around the playing area until fatigue brings a halt to any resistance.

Production Line

Any suggestion that Spain are past their best can be quickly tempered with further investigation. The great Xavi is no more but a midfield containing Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, David Silva and possibly Cesc Fabregas is not to be sniffed at.

Among the next wave of talent coming through are Koke and Isco from either side of the great Madrid axis of Atletico and Real.

At the back Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos have the experiences of a lifetime behind them and only the latter will have touched 30 by June.

Pique’s Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba is in the prime of his career and the same is true of goalkeeper David de Gea, who still has a job on his hands to displace the veteran Iker Casillas between the posts.

The Manchester United man is getting there however, slowly but surely, and there may be no better custodian in world football right now.

Front Foot

With Del Bosque ready to move on, Spain will want to end his glorious chapter on the ultimate high note.

At the head of affairs, Paco Alcacer and Pedro Rodriguez have jumped the queue on Diego Costa after his troubled World Cup.

Valencia’s Alcacer is the rising star after netting five times during qualifying.

Spain’s journey through Euro 2016 is sure to be furnished with a huge desire to ensure their failed Brazilian odyssey is not the final memory of the Del Bosque golden years

They begin their quest against Czech Republic in Toulouse on June 13. Turkey are next up in Nice four days later before they conclude the group stage – as they did four years ago – by facing Croatia, this time in Bordeaux on June 21.

Group D looks an ideal platform from which Spain can launch their bid for a hat-trick of European Championship crowns.


Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Porto), David De Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Rico (Sevilla)

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Bruno (Villarreal), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Thiago (Bayern Munich), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), David Silva (Man City), Pedro (Chelsea), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea)

Forwards: Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao), Nolito (Celta Vigo), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Lucas Vasquez (Real Madrid)


Team Profile

Number of European Championship Appearances 12
Best European Championship Performance Winners (1964, 2008, 2012)
Number of European Championship Titles 3
Qualifying Form Played: 10 Won: 9 Drawn: 0 Lost: 1
Coach Vicente del Bosque – appointed July 2008
Trophies 4
Most Capped Player Iker Casillas
Key Player at Euro 2016 David Silva