Sunday 22 June 2008

Can Spain maintain their flying start?

And then there was one. First Portugal fell, next Croatia and now the Netherlands, leaving Spain fans to wonder whether their team will also succumb to the curse seemingly afflicting the group winners at this UEFA European Championship.

Historical omens
So far every team that hit their stride in the opening stage of UEFA EURO 2008 has slipped up and the historical omens are not favourable for Spain, even if we choose to overlook their failure to defeat Italy in competitive action since 1920. Since the format of the EURO changed to accommodate first semi-final (in 1984) and then quarter-final matches (1996), only twice has a side topping their group gone on to win the trophy. France were champions in 1984 and Germany in 1996 but the four other winners Netherlands, Denmark, France and Greece all stepped up a gear in the knockout rounds after finishing group runners-up.

Break the mould
Not even taking maximum points in the first round is a positive pointer given that of those six champions only France managed a clean sweep of group wins. The question now is whether Spain can break the mould against the traditionally slow-starting Italians. Will Torres, Villa and Co extend their winning streak to four? Or will Italy, with the wiles of the long-distance runner, demonstrate once more their ability to time a run to perfection? Click below to let us know your thoughts.