UEFA EURO 2012 Team Preview – Spain

Population 47.2 million Area 504,030km2 Capital Madrid Currency Euro Official Language Spanish

FOOTBALL FACTFILE

Football Asocciation Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) Official Site http://www.rfef.es Year of formation 1909 Euro Ranking 1 World Ranking 1 National Stadium N/A Well-known club sides Real Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Atletico Madrid Leading goalscorers David Villa (51+), Raúl (44), Fernando Hierro (29) Most capped players Iker Casillas (127+), Andoni Zubiezareyya (126), Xavi Hernández (107) European Championship finals attended 1964, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 Best European Championship performance Winners 1964, 2008 Playing Record in European Championship P137 W85 D25 L27 Odds of winning UEFA EURO 2012 5/2

JOURNEY TO POLAND/UKRAINE

Undisputedly the hottest property in world football at the moment, it remains historical fact that no country has retained the European crown and no country, no matter on which continent, has won three major football tournaments in a row. Spain’s record since lifting the Henri Delaunay trophy in 2008 is something to behold, though.

Under the controversial Luis Aragones, Spain beat Russia, Sweden, Greece, Italy, Russia (again) and Germany to lift their first trophy since their European Championship victory at home soil in 1964. They managed 10 straight victories in qualification for the 2010 FIFA world Cup and, after a poor start, went on beat Holland 1-0 after extra-time in the final. They also have a perfect qualifying record going into Poland/Ukraine, taking apart a tricky group with a potency and fluency that suggests they have no intention of giving up their European crown.

David Villa broke Raúl’s long-standing record as Spain’s leading marksman during qualifying and Iker Casillas overtook Andoni Zubizaretta’s goalkeeper appearance record – with the former injured, the later will be pivotal to Spain success this summer.

What’s more in Xabi Alsono, Cesc Fàbregas, David Silva, Andrés Iniesta, and Xavi Hernández they have by far the strongest midfield spine of any team in the tournament. If they don’t make the semi-finals at least, it will be a huge shock.

HOW THEY GOT THERE

03/09/2010 – Group I – Liechtenstein 0-4 Spain
08/10/2010 – Group I – Spain 3-1 Lithuania
12/10/2010 – Group I – Scotland 2-3 Spain
25/03/2011 – Group I – Spain 2-1 Czech Republic
29/03/2011 – Group I – Lithuania 1-3 Spain
06/09/2011 – Group I – Spain 6-0 Liechtenstein
07/10/2011 – Group I – Czech Republic 0-2 Spain
11/10/2011 – Group I – Spain 3-1 Scotland

HOME AND AWAY KITS

GROUP FIXTURES – GROUP C

Sunday, 10/06 – Spain v Italy (Gdansk, 17:00)
Thursday, 14/06 – Spain v Republic of Ireland (Gdansk, 19:45)
Monday, 18/06 – Croatia v Spain (Gdansk, 19:45)

FINAL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF), Víctor Valdés (FC Barcelona), Pepe Reina (Liverpool FC).

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid CF), Gerard Piqué (FC Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Valencia CF), Álvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid CF), Raúl Albiol (Real Madrid CF), Juanfran (Club Atlético de Madrid), Javi Martínez (Athletic Club).

Midfielders: Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (FC Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid CF), David Silva (Manchester City FC), Santi Cazorla (Málaga CF), Jesús Navas (Sevilla FC), Cesc Fàbregas (FC Barcelona), Andrés Iniesta (FC Barcelona).

Forwards: Fernando Llorente (Athletic Club), Juan Mata (Chelsea FC), Fernando Torres (Chelsea FC), Pedro Rodríguez (FC Barcelona), Álvaro Negredo (Sevilla FC).

THE CAPTAIN & THE KEEPER – IKER CASILLAS

The most-capped, most-decorated goalkeeper, player and captain his country’s footballing history, Iker Casillas led Spain to glory in 2008 and 2010, and has twice been nominated for the European Footballer of the Year award, An excellent reaction-stopper who commands his area and his defenders, there is no more experienced keeper in world football.

THE DEFENSIVE ROCK – GERARD PIQUE

In Puyol’s absence, his Barcelona teammate Gerard Piqué will have a huge role to play in the center of La Roja’s defence. He is the most notable addition to Spain’s ranks since their UEFA EURO 2008 victory and the centre-back was on the field for every minute of his country’s 2010 FIFA World Cup success in South Africa. Tall, tough and commanding, he was a major figure in Barça’s relentless trophy assault under Pep Guardiola and will hope to make his presence fell in Poland/Ukraine.

STAR MAN – XAVI HERNANDEZ

Where once the talents of Xavi Hernández could, to a large extent, be described as ‘unsung’, now the whole world is in awe of his ability. Considered by many as the best midfield player in the business, he has extraordinary vision and control, swapping deft passes with speed and precision, and picking out the kind of balls others simply cannot see with beguiling consistency. In a team comprising enviable quality, his unique vision lifts him above the rest, and then some. Xavi, now 32, will make he’s fully focused come kick-off in five days time.

THE MANAGER – VICENTE DEL BOSQUE

Vicente del Bosque is lucky to be in charge of some of the brightest talent in world football at the moment, but has done a fantastic job of keeping his players grounded and hungry, especially during important matches. He set a new global record by winning his first 13 matches in charge, but has suffered two ignominious friendly defeats at the hands of Portugal (0-4) and Argentina (1-4). That said, a rusty carburettor could drive this team to the semi-finals and Del Bosque should achieve that at the very least.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTION

Winners – Germany and Netherlands have surely closed the gap on La Furia Roja, but with largely the same players that won the UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Spaniard hold the psychological advantage over their two closest rivals.

The Red Fury are drawn in a group consisting of Italy, Republic of Ireland and Croatia which is certainly not an easy one, and Spain will want to avoid a repeat of their opening match at the 2010 FIFA World Cup when they were beaten 1-0 by Switzerland. A win against Italy in their opening group game which is – on paper – their most difficult game in the group stages, will put them a long way towards qualifying for the quarter-finals.

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