Euro 2008 Is Just the Beginning for Spain
Fresh off their victory at Euro 2008, Spain has a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
They ran through Group D with great ease, racking up a plus-five goal differential en route to gaining the maximum nine points. This was no weak group, either. Greece was the defending European champion, Russia was ranked 24th in the world, and Sweden was 30th in the world, according to the most recent FIFA rankings.
Spain began the competition by defeating Russia, 4-1, in the opener behind a David Villa hat trick. Villa ended up scoring four goals in the group stage, and Spain only trailed for 19 minutes total, in a meaningless game against Greece.
The first true test for the Spaniards came in the first knockout round fixture, against Italy. The game was tied 0-0 after extra time, forcing penalties. Iker Casillas and friends came up big, winning the shootout 4-2. This victory set up a re-match against Russia, who had looked very impressive in dispatching the Netherlands.
Spain handled Russia just as easily as they had in the group stages with a 3-0 victory behind some wonderful passing from Cesc Fabregas. I won't bore you with a recap of the final, suffice it to say that the game against Germany was not as close as the 1-0 scoreline would indicate.
After their first major trophy in 44 years, Spain is poised to collect some more hardware in the very near future, here's why.
Only five players who made the Euro roster are older than 30. They are Carlos Puyol, Marcos Senna, Juanito Gutierrez, Joan Capdevila, and Andres Palop. Spain won this tournament with young, experienced players.
Cesc Fabregas is 21, Xabi Alonso is 26, David Silva is 22, and Fernando Torres is 24. These players will still be playing football at the highest level during World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012.
Fabregas is widely considered to be one of the best midfielders in the world, and he couldn't legally drink in the U.S. until just a couple of months ago. He was coming off the bench for the first few games of this tournament, and believe it or not, still has some developing to do. It's downright scary to think of how good this kid can be.
The players Spain has waiting in the wings are very, very good as well. Bojan Krkic scored 12 goals in 48 appearances for Barcelona last season, and has a solid record of scoring for the U-17 and U-21 teams. He could be a force to be reckoned with in 2010.
Don't forget that Pepe Reina is only 25 years old as well. If Iker Casillas ever goes down with an injury, Reina is a more-than-capable replacement who has played well for Liverpool over the past couple of seasons.
And lastly, this brings me to Casillas himself. He is the best goalkeeper in the world right now. He already has two Champions League titles under his belt, as well as two World Cup appearances. He saved two penalties against Italy, and won the 2008 Zamora trophy for the La Liga goalkeeper with the best goals-to- -appearances ratio.
Having a keeper like Casillas in net gives defenders like Capdevila and Sergio Ramos the confidence to push forward and add to the attack. Ramos gave defenses headaches at Euro 2008 and as he's only 22; I would expect this to continue for years to come.
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