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Spain's players celebrate their opening goal during the Euro 2016 group D football match between Spain and Turkey at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice on June 17, 2016. / AFP / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

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Spain retain hopes of an unprecedented European treble


Amidst all the predictions for Euro 2016, it’s telling how few pundits seem to be contemplating the possibility of Spain retaining the trophy they won in 2008 and 2012.

There are undeniably question marks over Spain.  The whole aura surrounding the Spanish has certainly diminished as a result of their World Cup humiliation in Brazil, where the then defending champions were the first team to be eliminated from the competition.

Another factor that goes against them is that they have been drawn in what is unquestionably the toughest looking group in the Euro finals, with Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey all looking decidedly awkward opposition.  Another early exit can’t be ruled out and the 14/1 on offer for such an eventuality does have some appeal, particularly if using the Bet365 promo.

Even so, should the draw pan out as the bookies predict, we should be set for a semi-final between France and Germany.  That would leave an opportunity for someone else to reach the final and, provided they can navigate their group stage successfully, Spain look as good a bet as any to take advantage.

Qualification for the finals was relatively straightforward after an early defeat in Slovakia, with the other nine group games all being won.  The back-line is as solid as they come, with only three goals conceded in qualifying.

Even without Xavi and Xabi Alonso, the depth of talent in midfield is still such that Vicente Del Bosque could omit the likes of Saul, Isco, Juan Mata and Gabi from his final 23-man squad.  The famed tika-taka passing and movement has been somewhat pedestrian at times of late and Del Bosque will be all too aware of how reliant he is on the fitness of Andres Iniesta.

The coach also seems uncertain as to what formation he will deploy, with a need to vary the possession football with getting the ball forward quicker and to play on the counter-attack at times.

Scoring goals has been something of an issue of late, with the recent 3-1 friendly win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Switzerland being only the second game in 13 in which they have scored more than two goals (the other being a 4-0 victory in a Euro qualifier at home to Luxembourg).

In selecting his strikers, Del Bosque has put his faith in two at opposite ends of their careers in 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz and the 23-year-old Alvaro Morata.  Aduriz seems to improve with age, but Morata has the versatility to adapt to whatever formation Del Bosque settles on and would seem the more likely starter.

Del Bosque will stand down after the finals after eight hugely successful years at the helm and this may also be the international swansong for Iniesta, Iker Casillas and David Silva on the major stage too.  In tandem with the likes of Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, they will be determined not to surrender another title without a fight.

Spain might not be quite the force of old, but perhaps they are being written off a little too readily by some.


 

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