Spain will not cede their throne quietly

Date published: Friday 17th June 2016 10:10

Rejoice! A team has scored more than two goals! In one game! And they scored them all before the 87th minute! Forget the one-goal wins or battling draws, one country finally truly asserted their dominance over another on the football field.

Trust Turkey to receive the first roasting of Euro 2016. After the tense encounters dominated by defensive displays and tactical masterclasses, Spain rolled back the years by handing out a veritable thrashing on Friday evening. The final box on the major tournament checklist is finally ticked after one week of drama, comedy, excitement and, unfortunately, sheer idiocy.

Andres Iniesta was, once again, simply wonderful. Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Jordi Alba were more than capable supporting acts. Sergio Ramos still somehow managed to look relatively questionable. Alvaro Morata failed his first summer audition against the Czech Republic, but he passed this one with consummate ease. The judge may have been considerably kinder, but a striker is not to blame for the deficiencies of his opponent. The in-demand Juventus forward learned from his prior mistakes to flourish, and has now scored more goals in this tournament than any other recognised centre forward.

As poor as Turkey were, Spain were excellent. They were incisive. They were dominant. They were a unit. They were, most notably, after their struggles two years ago in Brazil, hungry for success once more.

Eight teams have played two games without tasting defeat in France. Only five have kept two clean sheets. Only three have won both of their fixtures. Only one has scored more than two goals in one game. Spain have laid down the marker.

The ease of their victory in Lille begs the question: Why did we all doubt them? Why did none of us foresee this? Why were France backed so heavily, and Germany tipped by many, but the reigning European champions forgotten?

Granted, France have home advantage. Germany are world champions, of course. Both have a selection of the most talented players in world football. But Spain have won three of the last four major international competitions available to them. Seven of the players who started against Turkey boasted that much-vaunted ‘tournament experience’, having featured in at least one of that hat-trick of finals. This is still an excellent side; it is no coincidence that three of the four Champions League and Europa League finalists herald from La Liga.

Of 89 pundits, journalists and self-appointed ‘experts’ who offered their pre-tournament predictions for the BBC and five national newspapers, only 12 tipped Spain to win – Martin Keown is disqualified for backing France elsewhere. No-one from Sky Sports foresaw Vicente Del Bosque’s side winning the tournament; no-one from a site somewhere near here did either.

They have one of the best three goalkeepers. They have one of the five most impenetrable defences. They have one of the three best midfields – and perhaps the best midfielder. They have a striker valued at £50m. They entered the tournament as third favourites; they exit the first week having made by far the biggest statement.


Matt Stead

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