FEATURE | EURO CUP: THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS

EURO CUP: THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS VIA SNAPD

By Raven Benwait

Spain ended qualifications for the 2016 UEFA European Championships the same way they ended the tournament back in 2012. Returning to the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine shared a memory and an important reminder that this was the turf that Spain won a crushing 4-0 victory over Italy in the 2012 Euro Cup, which completed a historic three tournament run of success. Spain’s coach Vicente del Bosque called this win their best performance in the seven years he had been coach.

Unfortunately for Spain, the 2014 World Cup Championships held in Brazil did not go as well as the Euro Cup. Spain was crushed, infact the world champions were one of the first teams sent home as they were crushed 1-4 by Netherlands, faced another loss against Chile and only one win against Australia. Xavi Hernández, Xabi Alonso and David Villa were all playing for the last time during this World Cup, while Carles Puyol had already left before them. It felt as though that version of Spain we witnessed in the 2012 Euro Cup had disappeared in the 2014 World Cup.

Now things look different for Spain, who qualified for Euro 2016 with 9 wins out of 10 games played, including wins against Belarus, Luxembourg and Slovakia. The game that really shifted things was the trip to Kiev. In Kiev, Spain went into the game against Ukraine and battled for their 1-0 win. According to the Euro 2016 qualifying statistics, no one in Europe had better defensive record than Spain.

When it comes to the players for the team, Andres Iniesta who is now 33 has had a fantastic record of successes with both Spain and his club team Barcelona. The midfield consisted of Iniesta alongside Xavi Hernandes and Xavi Alonso in previous Euro Cup matches. Spain won previous tournaments by having precise ball control and passes which lead to great plays, especially in their midfield. With the other midfielders gone, the players to focus on are Sergio Busquets of Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas of of Chelsea, Isco from Real Madrid, David Silva of Manchester City and Santi Cazorla of Arsenal. Spain’s main goalkeeper has always been Iker Casillas. Since Casillas took the captains armband, Spain won three major tournaments in a row; no goalkeeper has ever won three tournaments in a row nor has a captain ever won three tournaments in a row, until. Iker Casillas broke down in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but has built his way up during Spain’s Euro Cup qualifying matches. Another goalkeeper to look out for is Manchester United’s David de Gea. The 25 -year- old was voted Man Utd’s Player of the Year and is now looking to confirm his status as an A-lister in this Euro Cup.

Despite the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Spain became the first team to win two consecutive European Championships, as well as three straight major tournaments (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012). This summer, Spain is in group D along with Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia. Spain has the chance to come on top and break history yet again.

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