OPINION | Spain’s Euro 2020 campaign, their golden boy and Lucho

Now that a few days have passed since Italy’s semi-final penalty shootout victory over Spain, it is time for Luis Enrique and co to reflect on the tournament that his side have had and look to the future.

As with any tournament exit, there has been a rigorous debate about whether Spain under or overachieved.

Were Spain lucky or fantastic?

With only one win in normal time during the six matches played, it is easy to see why Spain have had their usual critics. They pass too much. They cannot score. They are boring to watch. Etc.

But that is too simplistic a view.

Yes, Spain did pass the ball over 800 times against Italy and still lost the match.

But La Roja scored more goals than they ever have in European tournaments, including five goals in back-to-back matches.

In fact, their 13 goals registered are the highest in the entire competition (though England and Italy could change that after the final).

Spain also had 111 total attempts on goal, which is also the most (though Italy, in second with just three less, will probably overtake that figure).

Spain also had six different goal scorers and although he was much derided throughout the tournament, Álvaro Morata’s three goals were vital contributions.

There were many good signs for Spain.

Where did it go wrong?

The first thing that must be acknowledged is that Italy are a good team. They are currently on a 33 match winning streak and are defensively solid.

Throughout the tournament, they have looked one of, if not the best, side in this competition. Roberto Mancini has made a strong squad of players excel even more as a team.

But the fans and journalists who are complaining about Spain’s results/performances are not doing so because a strong and resolute Italian side beat them in a penalty shootout.

They are doing so because of some of the ongoing problems such as defensive lapses, goalkeeping errors, and lack of sharpness at the top which meant that whilst Spain put in a couple of stellar performances, their inconsistency did them damage.

When it clicks for Spain, as in the 6-0 nations league win against Germany, it is breathtaking. But because it is a young and new-look side, Spain are just not as consistent as they want to be.

A team for the future?

Ever since Spain’s tumultuous World Cup campaign in 2014, which included a humiliating 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands, La Roja have been rebuilding their squad.

Long gone are the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Piqué.

Only Busquets, Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba remain from the 2014 World Cup disaster, although new PSG defender Sergio Ramos can consider himself a little unlucky not to have featured with all of his injury problems and contract speculation.

David De Gea, although a survivor from the 2014 squad, has been dislodged as the number one goalkeeping option.

Spain’s new-look side, including Ferran Torres, Dani Olmo and Aymeric Laporte have surprised many.

There is still much depth to the squad.


If we are talking about a team for the future, then one man needs mentioning.

Barcelona’s Pedri, who two years ago was plying his trade for Second Division side Las Palmas, was one of the standout performers of Euro 2020 from any team.

Even more outstanding is the fact that the 18-year-old also featured in 52 games already for the Catalan giants.

He is Spain’s new golden boy.

A reconnection with the fans?

Before the tournament, with the controversy over the Spain squad having their vaccinations early and, in some quarters, the “horrendous” decision not to include any Real Madrid player in the squad, the Spanish team was not that popular going into Euro 2020

And after drawing their opening two matches at home in Seville whilst only scoring one goal, some fans even decided to boo the players as they went off.

But all that seems a long time ago.

Two back-to-back games of scoring five goals, including that stunning 5-3 victory over Croatia, a penalty shootout against a tough Switzerland side who had just knocked the pre-tournament favourites France and taking Italy to the wire and losing in an unlucky fashion, have meant that Spain have been able to reconnect with the fans.

Should Spain be content with their overall performance at the European Championships?

No team should ever be happy after losing a semi-final, but realistically you know that you are not going to win every single football match. This is football.

There are many things for Luis Enrique to work on.

But the next world cup is 18 months away and there are many positive signs for Lucho’s men.

There is also plenty of competition for places, so it depends on how players do domestically – and internationally – over the next year and a half.

This may not be Spain’s golden generation, but there is still a lot of strength in depth.

This tournament showed that.

James Felton

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