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Can Spain make it a hat-trick?

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012, 17.59CET
With Spain heading into the finals as European and world champions, Graham Hunter asks if Vicente del Bosque's squad can make history by winning their third straight major tournament.
by Graham Hunter
from Gniewino
 
 
Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012, 17.59CET

Can Spain make it a hat-trick?

With Spain heading into the finals as European and world champions, Graham Hunter asks if Vicente del Bosque's squad can make history by winning their third straight major tournament.

In Neustift four years ago, it was rain, mist and flies. In Potchefstroom in 2010, the evening temperature dipped below zero. Yet Spain won both tournaments, in Austria/Switzerland and South Africa. They are the European and world champions and so, naturally, the pre-EURO vacuum has been filled by the same question over and again: can they make history?

Can La Roja do what Germany nearly managed in 1976 (hello Antonín Panenka), France found beyond them in 2002 and Brazil had the opportunity to achieve in 2006 – win three consecutive trophies at world and continental level?

Spain fly here today, leaving 34C heat, and will arrive to grey skies and cold winds – Baltic temperatures. There will be time enough for the football debate. Which piece of the jigsaw, for example, was Spain assistant coach Toni Grande referring to when he said there were "one or two minor doubts" about the lineup for the Italy game on Sunday?

©Getty Images

Spain begin their title defence on Sunday in Gdansk

Right now, it is about settling in. Their Mistral hotel has two grass pitches, one smashing artificial surface, a swimming pool, a bowling alley and a lovely big fish tank, which provides a glass wall between the reception and bar. Groovy.

However, there is no getting away from the fact that the training complex is isolated. In Neustift, the Spain lads famously were able to see family and girlfriends during their 'down' time – eating in restaurants typical in what was a hill-walking and skiing resort.

In Potch (as it became called), when the world champions-elect were not in the cricket pavilion (featuring bats signed by the Australian World Cup squad and by the Little Master, Sachin Tendulkar), guys like Andrés Iniesta and Fernando Torres could wander off and spend time, unmolested, in the shopping malls.

Here in Gniewino, those are very distant prospects. Metropolitan this is not. The card-schools, the nightly gathering in Pepe Reina's room where the entire squad drinks a glass of a high-energy chocolate drink, the computer games, the pool tournaments – these will need to sparkle with fun in order to pass the time.

What many forget is that tournaments are 'won' off the pitch as well as on it. Atmosphere, living conditions, boredom, fun, team spirit, homesickness – unity. These are the nebulous ingredients. If they go well for the reigning champions, then… watch out Europe.

Last updated: 26/06/12 6.12CET

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