EURO 2020: Spanish team looks like a project for a future, feels Jofre Mateu

Former Spanish footballer Jofre Mateu, who is a product of the famed Barcelona academy, feels Enrique’s side has everything to play for at Euro 2020.

Alvaro Morata and Jordi Alba are among the senior players in the current Spanish squad.   -  AP

Spain dominated global football between 2008 and 2012. La Roja’s 2010 FIFA World Cup triumph was sandwiched between European Championship titles and Spain was incomparable during that phase. Modern-day legends like Iker Casillas, Fernando Torres and David Villa were the toast of the global game and the trophies kept coming during this phase.

Spain’s success then began to eventually dip, until it nosedived in 2014. The defending world champion made a group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup and lost in the Round of 16 in the Euros two years later. The slump continued into the following editions of the World Cup and Euros and the side is now on the road to recovery.

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Luis Enrique’s men managed just one win but finished second in Group E to set up a last-16 clash with Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runner-up. Former Spanish footballer Jofre Mateu, who is a product of the famed Barcelona academy, feels Enrique’s side has everything to play for at Euro 2020.

“It's probably more important [for Spain to win the title] than for others. But we are coming from a not so good result at the World Cup. It looks like we are making a project for the future with plenty of young players who can be a great team,” he said.

“We have players like Alvaro Morata, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Koke, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, Thiago Alcantara and Pedri - when you say these names it's like wow! But you still need to mix it up, they need to play together and find that spark. This is yet to happen. If it does not click now then it can in the next 2-3 years,” he added.

Spain’s Euro 2020 preparations suffered a rude jolt when Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente tested positive for coronavirus in the build-up to the tournament.

“Enrique chose only 24 players, two less than the maximum of 26 players. And then two of them were down with COVID-19 very close to the start of the competition. Spain started without a captain and it looked like the side began without a proper feeling flow.

“It was not the best situation for Enrique and his men to start. They have played with high pressure and probably kept the ball too much. They tend to want to keep the ball more than they want to create chances. They could take some risks,” felt Jofre.

Enrique’s team selection ahead of the Euros created quite a flutter as he left out Sergio Ramos, the nation’s most-capped player, and did not pick a single Real Madrid player. Jofre opined that the presence of Real Madrid players would not have made a big difference in the team.

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“The impact of his team selection is huge. I know that he knows it because he has a lot of detractors because of his choice of team. Many people are looking for bad results to criticise his choice. You can make some politics when you choose your team but he is not that kind of man. To be fair, you can choose some Real Madrid players but not something that would change a lot in the team. The probable Real Madrid choices would have been Lucas Vazquez, who is injured, and maybe Marco Asensio, who hasn't played much this season. So it would be an unpopular choice. The players he has chosen are better than them in their current form. Ramos is an option because of his leadership and influence, but not because of his performance in the last six months,” he said.

Jofre stressed that Spain had room for improvement and chose Italy and England as his favourites to win the Euro 2020 title. “Spain’s play could be better and the team is far from the top 6-8 national teams in the world. You can see Italy and England are hungry for the title. They are playing with the passion that you need for this tournament. They have young teams with lots of talent looking for the title,” he said.

Watch the UEFA EURO 2020 LIVE on Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 4.

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