The European Championships are now just days away and international elites Spain are being heavily backed to make it a record breaking three wins in a row, with bookmakers giving odds of just 5/2 for the side to add the 2012 Euro crown to their already decorated trophy cabinet.
As the current holders of both the Jules Rimet and Henri Delauney trophies it was inevitable that Spain would attract an avalanche of expectation prior to this years big footballing event, and whenever you enter the bubble of a football fan’s conversation you’ll find a split in opinions over whether the glow of the Spanish talent is dimming or still as bold as the famous red shirts they play in. No matter what the case, all eyes will be on Vicente Del Bosque’s men when they kick off against Italy on June 10th, and this fact has not gone unnoticed in the Spanish camp.
“The expectations aren’t just high, but they are soaring. The bar is almost insurmountable,” noted Spanish talisman Xabi Alonso, and the Spaniard is no stranger to pressure either having helped Real Madrid reclaim the La Liga title from Barcelona earlier this year. It seems however that this international burden is a couple of notches higher than the former Anfield favourite is accustomed to handling.
“The expectation can weigh you down a bit, but let’s just hope this won’t happen,” continued Alonso. “Winning the title is going to be much more difficult this time than previously. However, our objective is obviously to successfully defend our title.”
There is no doubt that the Spaniards have the quality in their side to reach Alonso’s targeted victory this summer, but with the field of opposition stronger than ever there is also every chance that the heavy expectations will prove too brutal a burden for Del Bosque’s men. After forging the figure of a glory filled nation in the past five years, the residents of Spain have forgotten the days where their international side was famed for forgetting their form on the big stage, and the mindsets of football boffins worldwide now hold a united belief there is nothing Spain cannot achieve.
Much like Tiger Woods however, the current Spanish side does not score quite as often as it once did. After suffering a leg break whilst playing for Barcelona, David Villa will miss the upcoming Euros, and the loss of such a proven goalscorer is likely to dampen the Spanish goal threat, especially with the revival of Fernando Torres as a prolific striker still very much in its early stages. Whilst Torres has shown flashes of brilliance for Chelsea they have been few and far between, and with the media picking on him constantly he has almost taken the image of a cute puppy given at Christmas who turned out to be a bit ugly and annoyingly un-toilet trained a few years later.
A Spanish midfield with more quality ingredients than a Jamie Oliver three course meal will of course be on hand to chip in with goals, but any side without strength up top is lacking, and although they will be good enough to dismiss weaker sides with ease this could cause issues when Spain meet fellow big forces in the tournament. With Carlos Puyol also missing through injury however it seems the Spaniards could leave themselves very vulnerable at the back should the midfield commit themselves to bombing forward in attack.
Further similarities can be found between Spain and golfing talisman Tiger Woods too, as despite Spain’s slight demise since World Cup glory, and the emphasis there really is on the word ‘slight’, Spain find themselves in an untouchable bubble in the minds of the Joe Blogs football fanatic that has many folk dismissing the fierce opposition of the Spanish with the argument that Spain have been there, done that and got the t-shirt reading ‘eternal glory’.
The golfing world has become attuned to the fact however that Tiger Woods is not alone at the top of the golf world, and the football pundits must realise that the same applies to Spain. There are Rory McIlroys, Luke Donalds and Lee Westwoods waiting to block Tiger’s route back to World number one, and Spain will face similarly stubborn opposition in the form of Germany, Holland and France. Whilst Holland may lack in defence they have a top notch attack, and a rejuvenated French side are sure to crack some well armoured sides in the tournament. Germany meanwhile represent Spain’s largest threat; perfectly organized in defence and resilient yet fluent in attack. The Germans are pacey, dangerous and ready to dethrone their Spanish opponents.
Nevertheless, reputations are not forged from nothing and as the mighty Tiger showed in his latest PGA Tour win at The Memorial, the reason champions are champions is because they can thrive under pressure. Woods faced a daunting downhill shot from the rough in his final round of The Memorial tournament, with the fate of the competition heavily reliant on the outcome. If the ball went too far, he’s lost it. If the ball went too short, he’s lost it. Instead of either of these outcomes, Tiger stepped up and hit a flop shot that against all odds rolled perfectly into the centre of the cup and helped him on his way to equaling Jack Nicklaus’ 73 PGA Tour wins.
Spain must do similarly. The nation lies deep in expectation with the Euros about to commence, but with a lot of confidence, a lot of skill and a little bit of luck, there is every chance Del Bosque’s Spain can rise from this pressurised rough spot and find the perfect line to the flag that would see them become the first team to ever win three consecutive major international tournaments. That outcome in particular would justify Spain’s international reputation, and the world’s footballing elect would face no future interrogation for having their fingers crossed in the future that they don’t draw the Spanish footballing elite.