Hoping to rekindle the unprecedented success of the 2008–2012 era, in which they won the 2010 World Cup inbetween consecutive European Championship wins, Spain go into the tournament at 8/1 to win Euro 2020.
The people of Spain will hold strong the memory of a dismal Euro 2016 campaign in which the side — then managed by Vincente Del Bosque — stumbled through the group stage before being eliminated by Italy. More recently, in the 2018 World Cup, the side now managed by Fernando Hierro, Spain won just once in their group stage before being eliminated by the hosts, Russia, on penalties in the Round of 16.
La Furia Roja have almost entirely rejuvenated their squad with fresh talent. Now, under the tutelage of Luis Enrique, Spain look set to return to past glories. They will hope it starts this summer.
In the 5th part of our Euro 2020 preview series, we’ll take a deep dive into this new-look Spain side’s recent form, formation and playing style, and key players before pulling key odds from Spains Euro campaign.
Euro 2020 Qualifying: WWDDWWWWWW
In a group consisting of Sweden, Norway, Romania, the Faroe Islands and Malta, you would expect Spain to cruise through relatively unharmed. You would be bang on. Draws against Sweden and Norway were the only blemishes on an otherwise perfect record which saw them win the other eight, scoring 31 (3.1 per game) and conceding just five (0.5 per game).
In the return round of each draw against the two Scandinavian sides Spain won convincingly, whilst also slamming seven past Malta and five past Romania without reply in their last two games.
In more general terms, mostly inclusive of Nations League matches and World Cup qualifiers, Spain have been worryingly inconsistent. A 6–0 pasting of Germany in November was bookended by draws against Switzerland and Greece, whilst back in November they contrived to lose 1–0 to Ukraine.
Despite a relatively large player overhaul in the Spanish national side, in terms of formation and playing style, not much has changed since the days of Del Bosque, who adopted Pep Guardiola’s possession-based 4–3–3 blueprint.
At the back, the comfortable ball-playing duo of Aymeric Laporte — who only recently declared for Spain after spending much of his early career aiming for the French national side — and Pau Torres will look to push possession into a highly technical midfield three.
A deep-lying pivot (in this case Rodri) will circulate possession and drop into a back three when attacking, to allow the full-backs to push on.
Where Enrique does slightly differ from the norm, however, is his focus more on direct, vertical attacking rather then tiki-taka — originally a term of derision, meaning possession for possessions sake; Despite the phrase being linked with Guardiola’s Barcelona, the man himself despises the label being pinned to his sides.
To complement an industrious, yet still highly technical and progressive, duo of the likes of Pedri and Koke, Enrique will likely opt for two electric wingers, equally dangerous hugging the touchline or drifitng into a number ten role; in this instance we’ve chosen Ferran Torres and Marcos Llorente.
At the point of the attack, Juventus forward and relative Spanish veteran (at 28-years old and with 39 international caps) Alvaro Morata, is likely to play a typically unselfish role, holding up play and acting as link up between central midfield and winger. He’ll also be on hand to comtribute his fair share of goals.
Rodri: The key to all of the most successful Spanish sides has been an orchestral rhythm in the centre of the pitch, and every orchestra needs a conductor. The glorious side at the turn of the last decade had Sergio Busquets, and as the Barcelona stalwart started to dwindle with age, it was Rodri who took the baton.
The Manchester City midfielder couldn’t be better placed to come in as the metronome of Enrique’s side, having just won the Premier League and Champions League at the base of midfield under Guardiola. Rodri’s unwavering composure in a clustered area has proved pivotal for City, and his intelligence out of possession has been a major factor in his side producing one of the best defensive displays over the course of a season in recent history.
For Spain, expect a carbon copy, as Rodri pushes possession to the likes of Llorente, Pedri and City team mate Torres, before screening the Spanish defensive unit and killing any potential counters before they have chance to flourish.
Marcos Llorente: Deployed in a range of right-sided and central positions for his club, La Liga champions Atletico Madrid, Marcos Llorente is more than capable of pushing into a right-wing role under Enrique. His 12 goals and 11 assists means he has the second most goal contributions at Atleti this season behind Luis Suarez with 24 (21 goals, 3 assists).
What’s more interesting, especially considering he has spent most of the season as a right-sided central midfielder or right-wing back, is the decisiveness of his ball-carrying ability. Whilst only averaging a total of 4.67 progressive carries per 90 minutes (62nd percentile compared to all midfielders in Europe’s major leagues), Llorente is in the 98th percentile for ball carries into the penalty area (0.87 per 90 minutes).
What this shows is Llorente’s intention, when the opportunity does arise, to penetrate stubborn defences and cause problems in and around the penalty area — a trait perfectly made for an Enrique Spain side.
After a couple of terrible tournaments, Spain have understandably fallen down the pecking order, coming in at to win Euro 2020. They are also 5th in line to reach the final at 15/4, and 1/3 to win their group.
Spain’s lack of a leading goalscorer also means you’re looking fairly long-odds for any Golden Boot winners in La Roja, the most likely being Alvaro Morata at 25/1, with only Ferran Torres anywhere near the main bunch at 33/1.
Spain are 2/5 to beat Sweden in their opening fixture of the tournament
Spain are in Group E with Poland, Slovakia and Sweden.
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