By Tim Hanlon
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Although reigning champions Spain have qualified for Euro 2016 there still remains plenty of work to be done if they are to match the heights they attained in their golden spell before their failure at the Brazil World Cup.
A routine 4-0 victory over Luxembourg on Friday rubber- stamped their passage to France next year having won eight of their nine qualifying matches in Group C.
Still they have been made to work hard and have not been able to ease to victory against inferior sides on paper.
Against Luxembourg again they got the goals in the end but it was a long way from the dominant ‘tiki-taka’ football when they swept aside opponents with quick passing.
Tellingly, they have struggled in friendlies against stronger sides and have lost to France, Germany and the Netherlands since the World Cup.
“We have picked up a lot of points (in qualifying) but it has not been easy,” coach Vicente Del Bosque told reporters.
“We have had some difficult moments.”
They will go to the tournament having won the European Championship in 2008 and 2012, along with the 2010 World Cup, but Del Bosque has had to rebuild the side following the poor display in Brazil.
Their inability to get out of the group stage led to several of the older faces like Xavi and Xabi Alonso making way for new blood.
While they are spoilt for choice in midfield, they lack options in attack where they have never been able to replace the goals from David Villa and Fernando Torres in their pomp.
Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado are among players who have been tried out, and Diego Costa has also had only moderate success.
The favourites now to lead the line appear to be Alvaro Morata and Paco Alcacer.
Morata’s strong form for Juventus pushed him ahead of Alcacer and he looked lively against an albeit weak Luxembourg defence but went off injured after half an hour. It opened the door for Alcacer, who has not had a regular place in the Valencia team this season, and he took full advantage with two goals.
Defensively also Spain have little cover for regular centre halves Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique. Inigo Martinez’s star has been on the wane at Real Sociedad and the inexperienced Marc Bartra of Barcelona and Real Madrid’s Nacho Fernandez are the other options.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)