Spain spoiled for creative talent
A bright young team led by an outgoing coach with a point to prove – Spain may taste glory at UEFA EURO 2008™ provided they can harness Fernando Torres's ability.
Having had their ups and downs in qualifying, Spain finished their Group F campaign on a high and subsequent friendly wins over France and Italy have marked out Luis Aragonés's team as a youthful side of huge promise. A great-looking midfield and a lethal striker in Torres make Spain one of the pre-tournament favourites, although that is an all-too familiar situation.
'I'm like milk'
One thing that is certain is that Aragonés will not continue as Spain coach after UEFA EURO 2008™. Dismissing rumours that he would carry on after his contract expired, the 69-year-old said: "I'm like milk. Once it's gone past its sell-by date, you can't drink it any more." Having endured some criticism, the 'Wise Man of Hortaleza' would love to sign off as the man who ended Spain's reputation as underachievers.
The veteran has fashioned a side well capable of dazzling. Bursting with creativity in midfield, the likes of Xavi Hernández, Cesc Fabregas and Andrés Iniesta have been incorporated into a 4-1-4-1 formation which allows a lone striker to shine. For the moment, Liverpool FC forward Torres is an unequivocal first choice in that position, with David Villa and in-form Daniel Güiza as alternatives.
Building from the back, Iker Casillas should be first choice in goal in Austria and Switzerland, with Carles Puyol and Carlos Marchena operating in central defence. Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevila could be deployed on either side of the back four, while naturalised Brazilian Marcos Senna will take the bodyguard role in front of the defence, allowing Spain's artistic talent to prevail.
The creative component of that midfield will likely comprise Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso. All offer good touch and vision yet they also bring different things to the team: Xavi supplies superb passing and set-piece delivery; Fabregas has a nose for goal, Iniesta is brilliant in one-on-ones and can play on the wing; while Xabi Alonso can also cover in defence.
With Sergio García, David Silva and Santiago Cazorla available in reserve, Spain are blessed with almost improbable riches in midfield, and as long as they are in possession, they are formidable opponents. Should they find their tournament legs, they may yet do what no Spain side has done since the 1964 UEFA European Championship and win a major title.