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England, Belgium friendlies a chance for Spain to shine

England, Belgium friendlies a chance for Spain to shine

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s friendlies against England and Belgium will be a chance for La Roja to demonstrate their quality before they defend their European title in France next year, new call-up Oscar de Marcos said on Wednesday.

The English and Belgians were two of the form teams in qualifying for Euro 2016, with England claiming a perfect 10 wins in topping Group E and Belgium losing once, a surprise defeat by Wales in June, in securing first place in Group B.

Spain recovered well from an early defeat to Slovakia to win Group C by five points, and conceded a mere three goals in their 10 matches, the same as England and two fewer than Belgium.

De Marcos, who plays for Athletic Bilbao, was called into the squad on Monday as cover for the injured Juanfran and will hope to win his first cap against England in Alicante on Friday or against Belgium in Brussels four days later.

“They are very strong opponents and that is also a good thing,” the 26-year-old De Marcos told a news conference at Spain’s training base outside Madrid.

“They are ideal matches for us to prove our worth.”

Spain will be without Real Madrid midfielder Isco for the two matches after he withdrew from the squad due to “muscle fatigue”, the team said on their official website (www.sefutbol.com) later on Wednesday.

Another new face in coach Vicente del Bosque’s squad is Villarreal full back Mario Gaspar, who scored on his debut in last month’s 1-0 success against Ukraine in Kiev.

While neither Gaspar or De Marcos are likely to play a key role at Euro 2016, Del Bosque is keen to try out as many options as possible as he looks to get the team in shape for their bid for an unprecedented third consecutive European triumph.

Spain, the 2010 world champions, won three straight major tournaments between 2008 and 2012 but flopped at the World Cup finals in Brazil last year when they failed to make it past the group stage.

“With these next two opponents you can’t have friendlies,” Gaspar told Wednesday’s news conference. “It’s going to be a great test.”

Spain also announced they will play a friendly against Romania on March 27.

(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Rob Hodgetts)

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