It’s now time to play for your country’s flag rather than your club’s crest . The Copa America has begun but has not generated the level of excitement Euro already has.
Over to the Euros! This edition promises to be really entertaining, especially when most of the teams have fielded a relatively young squad. The defending champions, Spain who are undergoing a transition phase after the dismal show in Brazil are without the services of legends like Puyol, Xavi, El nino and La Guaje. The omission of Torres, was shocking given his amazing run in form post winter break. The squad now looks a tad bit inexperienced but there’s Don Andres Iniesta to motivate them on the field and Casillas to create a match-winner atmosphere in the dressing room.
Let’s have a guess at how Del Bosque will sport his playing XI, who makes it and who doesn’t. We will definitely have De Gea at goal. The legend that Casillas is, even he’ll agree that De Gea deserves to start after back to back amazing seasons at United. Ramos will partner Pique at back which just doesn’t look right after all the on field and off field fights. Country always comes before club unless you’re Clasico rivals? We’ll see that soon enough but if they leave the rivalry behind and work as a team, it’d be safe to say that this is the strongest pair in the Euros. Alba will probably start even though the second half of his season was far from his best, as there’s not much competition for the LB position or maybe Azpilicueta? Juanfran is favorite ahead of Azpilicueta to start at RB after his performance in Atletico’s trophyless yet challenging season. The key to Spain’s campaign will definitely be the midfield. Busquets who is probably one of the best CDMs right now will be playing the holding role and you can count on him to provide a good link between the defense and attack. Captain Don, the hero of 2010 will be playing ahead of him, slightly wide but the lack of a quality striker might test his spoonfeeding skills. But as demonstrated in the 2010 world cup, if situation demands, he can take matters in his own legs. Here’s where it gets tricky for Del Bosque. He can either go for an attacking 4-3-3 or a false nine like how he’s done for a long time now. Assuming he continues with the false nine, we’ll probably see Thiago alongside Iniesta. There are quality midfielders like Silva and Koke who are probably better than Thiago on paper but the rapid growth of Thiago in Bayern and most importantly the fact that he’s more accustomed to tiki-taka might work in his favor and earn him the spot. Silva has more experience and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t make it too. The “next Xavi” Koke has valid reasons to be there too, after a really good season, feeding Griezmann. We’ll just leave Del Bosque to take a call there.
Fabregas will probably continue in his false nine role with Pedro and Morata on either wings, providing pace for counters.
Here’s how the frontline might change if Del-Bosque chooses an attacking 4-3-3 option, which is less likely but still an option. Thiago will have to sacrifice his position to Fabregas who’ll play the right-central-mid role with iniesta left of him, like how he did for a brief period in his forgettable time at Barça. Celta Vigo winger Nolito who has had two brilliant seasons is favorite along with Pedro to start on the wings. The most important gift to the Spain team is the versatility of the players, allowing any player to play any wing but we’ll probably see Nolito on the left and Pedro on the right. Morata will then have to play the striker role and only a few will bank on him to fail, after his contribution to Juventus in their back to back domestic double seasons.
On the bench we’ll have Aduriz looking to have some game time. It would be nice to see Bartra, Vasquez, Bellerin and the shape-shifting Sergi Roberto getting atleast some game time after impressive seasons in their respective clubs. Unfortunately, Casillas will also have to start at the bench, but his dressing room presence will definitely be as instrumental in Spain’s chances as De Gea’s on-field heroics.
As discussed, the lack of a quality striker and/or a poacher might make the difference between semi finals and finals for Spain. There are definitely better and more balanced teams in the competition, like Germany and France. Spain will have to work really hard to make it past the semis. A miracle can see them through the finals. As SAF once said, attacks win you matches and defence win you trophies. So we might witness a series of 1-0, 2-1 wins to take them to the title as they don’t have a scary frontline but have two rocks at the back, protecting a wall who can save almost anything,a hardworking right back and a Ferrari parked on the left.
Note: I hope they prove me wrong and win this thing.