From 2008-12, Spain were the dominant side in International football. 2 European Championships and a World Cup. Their use of Tiki-Taka helped them dominate games. The final of the Euro 2012 demonstrated their ability to decimate some of the finest International sides. Italy were ripped apart 4-0 in the finals.
The 2014 World Cup saw the Spanish crash heavily. A 5-1 drubbing at the hands of the Netherlands followed by a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Chile saw the defending champions bow out. Spain would end up being classified as 23rd in the World Cup.
The Euro 2016 Qualification started slow with a defeat against Slovakia, but Spain bounced back to win the remaining 8 matches in a row to qualify as group winners. Their confidence will be up once again, as it’s been over a year since Spain tasted defeat (a 2-0 friendly loss to the Netherlands).
The question for most is: Can Spain defend the title?
The answer to that would be a simple ‘Yes’. This time, Spain are better prepared than they were for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The squad consists of an appropriate mix of young and experienced players. The squad (which is the 25 man provisional squad) consists of 13 players who were part of the ill-fated world cup campaign. Youngsters like Isco, Saul, Marc Batra, Dani Carvajal , Alvaro Morata have been included this time. To support them, experienced players such as Iniesta, Ramos, Pique, Cesc and Silva are available as the core.
With a majority of the squad having played many games together, Spain can continue to have a cohesive unit which is supported with new youngsters. The squad has addressed its issues up front. All the forwards shortlisted this time have not only had excellent seasons, they are facilitators for their teammates. With attacking midfielders such as David Silva, Isco or Cesc in the squad, this creates more opportunities for attack by drawing away defenders.
From a squad perspective, the selection has been good. Every player selected for the squad has performed well in the 2015/16 season. The only question was the inclusion of Pedro who had a torrid season at Chelsea, over Juan Mata who had a good season with Manchester United (not quite a good season since his days at Chelsea).
Their route in the Euro 2016 will not be easy. Spain’s group members are the Czech Republic, Croatia and Turkey. The Czech Republic finished as winners of Group A in qualifying, including 2 wins over Netherlands. The Czech’s have had a leaky defence which can be exploited (14 goals conceded). Turkey were wildcards in Group A of qualification and were expected to finish 3rd. They made a late surge for qualification, taking 13 out of 15 points in the last 5 matches. The biggest opponents are Croatia. Having been regulars at International Tournaments, Croatia lost once in qualification. They have a strong attack and defence and will be a handful for Spain.
Spain, given the quality and form of their players, should be able to top the group with 7 points, a sole draw coming up against Croatia. As winners of Group D they are not likely to face any of the tournament favourites till the semi-finals (barring any major upsets). This can allow them to build up confidence and momentum in the run to the crucial stages of the knockouts.
Spain are heading in with a balanced squad and are one of the tournament favourites. They have the chance to win their 3rd consecutive and 4th overall European Championship.