European Football Championship 2008: Euro-Files: Spain
Since winning the European Championships in 1964, La Furia Roja have failed to progress further than the quarter-finals in six European Championships and 12 World Cups. And while, this time around the Spanish enter the tournament with a solid backline and competition in both midfield and attack, the question remains: can they fulfil their potential?
Eight wins in their last nine qualifiers propelled Spain to the top of their group, with the 4-5-1 formation favoured by Aragones serving them well. Valencia striker David Villa, who spearheaded the system, scored seven goals, earning 1261 points and finishing 18th in the top 20 strikers. He would have finished higher, but only four of his goals came in the last seven games from which the latest scores were calculated, and scoring against weaker opposition also detracted from his overall tally.
Also firmly in the running, particularly if Aragones opts for a 4-4-2, is Fernando Torres. The Liverpool striker scored Spain’s first goal in qualifying in a 4-0 win against Liechtenstein, added another against Latvia, and also has 10 goals in nine games for Liverpool. Other striking contenders, meanwhile, include Villa’s strike partner at Valencia, Fernando Morientes, and Spain’s all-time leading goalscorer (with 44 goals), Raul Gonzales.
Aragones’ forward line will depend on how many he opts for in midfield. Spain were freescoring using a central quintet, with Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta scoring seven between them. Iniesta failed to make the CPI top 20, but Xavi was ranked third – a result of more goals than his team-mate in the last seven qualifiers, and strikes that were also deemed to be higher quality. Iniesta, though, remains an indispensable part of the jigsaw, due to his abilities in the middle or on the wing – as displayed in the away win over Denmark.
The Barça duo’s ability to get forward, meanwhile, owes much to David Albeda of Valencia, sitting in front of the back four, and Cesc Fabregas, who’s added goals to his burgeoning creative game, with 13 so far for Arsenal this season in all competitions. An impressive roster is completed by Joaquin.
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
Spain’s settled backline features Sergio Ramos on the right, Juan Capdevila (who leapfrogged Ramos after scoring against France in a friendly) on the left and Carlos Marchena and Carles Puyol in the middle. If those four continue to keep clean sheets, they’ll undoubtedly climb the rankings.
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas (the first choice ahead of Liverpool’s Pepe Reina), who’s set for his fourth major international tournament, is surprisingly absent from the goalkeeper rankings despite five clean sheets in Spain’s last seven qualifying games (and another in the friendly against France). But the Real Madrid stopper had few opportunities to impress – and rack up major points – in the wins against Latvia (twice) and Liechtenstein. He won’t complain if he’s similarly underemployed come June...
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