GUWAHATI: Spain are in a period of transition with a number of experienced players paving the way for younger names in Luis Enrique’s squad at the European Championship. Captain Sergio Busquets, who could miss a game or two at the beginning of the campaign after testing positive for Covid-19, is the only survivor from the 2010 World Cup victory.
With one of the youngest squads in the competition and with just two players having played more than 50 international games for the side, Spain aren’t heading into the Euros this summer with the tag of pre-tournament favourites like they usually do.
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But according to former Spain midfielder Luis Garcia, not having to cope with the pressure of sky-high expectations can be good for Enrique’s side. “It can be an advantage. We have seen many times that when the spotlight is not on you, the players arrive with a little less pressure,” Garcia told reporters in a virtual interaction organised by Sony Sports Network, for whom he will be working as a pundit during the upcoming European Championship.
“(When you are favourites) the media brings the pressure when you play. We have seen it before, with Belgium for example in the last edition. They were one of the big favourites and they didn’t manage to have a great tournament. For Spain, it was kind of the same. Everyone expected them to perform the way they did in (Euro) 2008, 2010 (World Cup) and 2012 (Euro),” he explained.
“It’s not easy at all when you try to repeat those performances in the long run. There always comes a transition period. We have also seen it with Germany (at the 2018 World Cup). You need to adapt to a new game, to new players. This is a chance for the young players to show that they have fantastic quality. In this group, many players know each other from the U-21, U-23 levels and that gives them a good chance of performing well.”
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Garcia insisted that Spain still possess the firepower to go all the way. “At the moment, Spain probably don’t look like favourites. (But) for me, they are good enough. We have got very good players – Thiago in midfield will be key. He is a player who can create something out of nothing. There are players like (striker) Gerard Moreno who can kill the game in a single second because he has been fantastic this whole season.
“We don’t see them as we see England, France, Belgium or Germany. They are top, top teams because of the number of big players they have got. But what is most important is the unity among players in this kind of tournaments,” he said.
Commenting on the absence of Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos from the squad, the former Barcelona and Liverpool star said he believed that Ramos’s injury troubles last season may have played a part. “Ramos went through a very tough time in the last few months with injuries. I think Enrique needed to make a change. Pau Torres has done great (for Villarreal), Laporte has done great (with Man City). We have got players at the back who can give 100% and maybe Ramos is not at 100% at the moment. The leadership that he brings to the team is always very important but it was done maybe to move on,” Garcia said.
The former Champions League-winning player said he wasn’t surprised by the absence of Real Madrid players from the Spain squad but added that Nacho could have been a valuable addition. “I know Luis Enrique very well. I had him as a teammate when I was at Barcelona. If there’s one thing that defines Enrique, it’s his honesty.
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“He is a very straight person and a hard-worker, I can tell you that. He only looks after the team. He is not going to think on the lines of ‘I am a Barcelona supporter’. He will look into what he needs to do to try and win this tournament and he found that there was no Real Madrid player who could fit into the style that he wants to approach the tournament in,” Garcia said.
Asked about the debate on whether Alvaro Morata or Villarreal star Moreno should start in the number 9’s role, Garcia said, “For me, at the moment, Gerard Moreno has to be there. I don’t know in what position – you can play him in the wide areas too because we have seen that he can play as a winger, also as a second striker because he knows how to move, how to turn. He has to be very close to the box because he is definitely one of the top strikers at the Euros.”
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