Getting Over The Hump: The Players Spain Needs To Step Up To Win Euro 2008
Spain has a great squad this year for Euro 2008. They have always fielded great players from La Liga but this year will be combining those players with veterans from around Europe.
Players such as Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabergas, Xabi Alonso and Pepe Riena bringing their experience from the Premier League and deep runs into the Champions League to a young squad.
The team has many new faces—some of whom are very young and untested—but like always great potential.
For the Spaniards to succeed in Euro 2008 these are four things that must happen:
1. Torres and Villa must score (and other attacking issues).
Once again Aragonés left all-time scoring leader Raul off the squad. But that does not mean Spain does not have scoring fire power.
David Villa and Torres could be the most prolific scoring duo in the world. They are both incredibly fast on the ball and can both beat defenders one-on-one and have great noses for the goal.
The question is how well they will work together up top. Against Peru this week they did not look bad together in the first half, but they will need to get even more comfortable if Spain is to score consistently.
Behind Torres and Villa are two very promising but untested players in Guiza and Sergio Garcia. And while both had fantastic seasons, it is impossible to tell how they will react to the grand stage.
2. Midfield control.
In a somewhat surprising move Aragonés left Fabergas on the bench for the first half against Peru. Cesc must be involved in the midfield if Spain is to have a chance.
While only 21, Cesc has separated himself as one of the best midfielders in the world and took on a leadership role at Arsenal this season. It will be important for that role to continue for the nation team.
Xavi and Xabi Alonso have experience and will need to be involved to control the tempo of play along with relative newcomer Marcos Senna and the fresh blooded De La Red and Cazorla who will surely see time if any of the others falter.
But the key to Spain's midfield is the play of Cesc, who has the ability of very few in the world to drastically change a game.
3. Defense and Goalkeeping.
In goal Spain has arguable the best in the world in Casillas who is backed up by the very capable Palop and Reina. This is not an area of concern.
The defense in front of the goalkeeper, on the other hand, is.
Sergio Ramos and Capdevila are great defenders but have a tendency to push forward too often and leave huge holes on the back line. On their respective teams (Real Madrid and Villareal) this is expected but the national team seems to have yet to figure out covering for them.
It does not help that Spain's defense is still anchored by the aging Puyol. Not to say he is not still a world class defender but he has lost a step or two over the past few years and does not have the speed to cover for his fellow back-liners when they push forward.
Spain must find some consistency from the back if they hope to advance past even the group stage.
4. Leadership. Where will it come from? And in what form?
With a team full of youngsters, where will the much needed leadership come from?
The easiest answer would be to say Casillas and Puyol at the back leading the team. They have been with the team the longest and have significant international experience.
But it will be incredibly important for others to take some of the burden. Players like Cesc and Xabi are charged with controlling the field and will need to take charge of their team.
Villa up front also needs to show signs of leadership. It has always seemed as if he was happy scoring goals and leading by example but Spain will need more from him if they hope to win.
All in all Spain has a fantastic squad and as good a chance—if not better—than most teams to win the tournament. But there is a very delicate balance between winning and falling completely apart like in years past.
Lets hope they can keep it together and play up to their potential.
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