Euro 2012 guide: Spain

ONE TO WATCH: Fernando Llorente

ONE TO WATCH: Fernando Llorente

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THE reigning world and European champions unsurprisingly breezed through the qualifiers and are the bookies, and many people’s favourites to do what’s never been done before and win a third consecutive major trophy.

Coach

Vicente del Bosque, the two times Champions League winning coach (both with Real Madrid in 2000 and 2002) led the Spaniards to the 2010 world cup after succeeding Luis Aragones in 2008. Rather than completely revamping a winning formula he simply tweaked formation by bringing in midfielders Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets to cover Xavi and playing David Villa wider role to the left of Fernando Torres. Not only did this assist in Spain’s much talked about tika-taka passing game to pick opponents off but it also acted as a defensive tactic in closing games out by not letting their opponents touch the ball.

Key player

While Spain has many world class players at their service nobody else embodies the team’s philosophy more than the Xavi, whom many consider Spain’s greatest ever midfielder. Dictating play from his familiar central position Xavi will probably rack up more passes than anybody else in the tournament seemingly hiding the ball from the opposition then popping up with a key pass or bit of creativity to cut through defences.

One to watch

Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente may become Spain’s main striker at Euro 2012 due to the absence of David Villa and the indifferent form of Fernando Torres. The tall striker has had a fantastic season for his club where he led them to two cup finals. He’s shown that there’s more to his game than being just a target man. He’s neat in possession, good at bringing others into play and capable of creating chances for others. Used as an impact player from the bench in the last World Cup he’ll be hoping that, this time round, he can also be an impact from the start.

Why they could have a good tournament...

Where to start? They can still boast the world class spine of the teams that won the last two major tournaments, while they’ve also got players such as Juan Mata, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Roberto Soldado who aren’t even guaranteed a place in the first XI. No other team will have more of the ball, have more confidence and belief in the way they play or be as good to watch with their quick one-two combinations and fluid passing moves. To sum up La Roja’s domination in games it’s often said that Spain’s games should be played with two footballs, one for them, and one for the opposition, so the opposition get the opportunity to attack

Why they could have a bad tournament...

The obvious reason is the potential tension between the players from Barcelona and Real Madrid. While the rivalry has been always been one of the biggest in world football, it’s taken a nastier turn since Jose Mourinho took over the Madrid club which has been there for all to see in each El Clasico over the last two seasons. Despite the outstanding options all over the field even Spain are likely to miss the absence of warrior centre back Carles Puyol and striker David Villa. With Fernando Torres in poor form it remains to be seen whether Villa’s goals will be missed having scored 9 goals in the Spain’s last two tournament triumphs. Torres, in the same two tournaments, managed 2 goals.