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New-look Spain gearing up for title defence

Published: Wednesday 3 September 2014, 8.40CET
Joseph Walker and Richard Martin examine the reconstructed Spain side as they prepare for UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying in the wake of several retirements.
by Joseph Walker & Richard Martin
from Madrid & Barcelona
New-look Spain gearing up for title defence
Atlético midfielder Koke is set to become a key player for La Roja ©Getty Images


Published: Wednesday 3 September 2014, 8.40CET

New-look Spain gearing up for title defence

Joseph Walker and Richard Martin examine the reconstructed Spain side as they prepare for UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying in the wake of several retirements.

Times are changing for UEFA EURO 2012 winners Spain, who begin their 2016 qualifying campaign at home to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 8 September. Before then the reigning champions face France on Thursday in a Paris friendly, their first game since exiting the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the group stage. Following several retirements and the introduction of new faces, analyses what we can expect from La Roja as they chase an unprecedented third straight European title.

Out with the old, in with the new
The Spanish press have long talked about a "fin de ciclo" (end of era) and with mainstay Xabi Alonso and fellow midfield metronome Xavi Hernández joining forward David Villa in hanging up their international boots, there is a distinctly fresh look to the squad named by coach Vicente del Bosque for the matches against Les Bleus and FYROM.

A glimpse of the future
Although humbled in Brazil, Spain have won the last two UEFA European Under-21 Championships, tournaments that have proved a springboard to the first team, with 11 of the 23-man squad that triumphed in Israel in 2013 having since earned senior call-ups – including David de Gea, Daniel Carvajal, Marc Bartra, Koke and Isco who are in the squad this time round. Valencia CF striker Paco Alcácer was a European U19 champion in 2012 along with that event's best player Gerard Deulofeu, drafted into the senior fold for May's friendly with Bolivia. 

Koke on 2013 U21 title

How they might line up ...

There are question marks over whether Del Bosque will keep faith with captain Iker Casillas, a constant in each of Spain's three major successes, who like many now-departed colleagues endured a difficult World Cup. The coach has repeatedly stood by the under-pressure custodian and appears set to do so again, though De Gea and new squad member Francisco Casilla are primed to step in.

An injury to Gerard Piqué means either Raúl Albiol, Bartra or Mikel San José will partner Sergio Ramos in central defence, though the FC Barcelona stalwart's spot in future squads looks assured. On the flanks Carvajal will battle it out with Juanfran for the right-back berth, with Jordi Alba still first-choice left-back.

©Getty Images

Ander Iturraspe

The biggest shake-up will be in midfield after former pillars Alonso and Xavi called time on their national-team careers, with Club Atlético de Madrid’s Koke destined for a prominent role for years to come. Athletic Club's reliable holding midfielder Ander Iturraspe has the chance to stake his claim as heir to fellow Basque Alonso, while the powerful Raúl Garcia gives Del Bosque the option of altering the style if required.

If doubts were raised over Diego Costa's ability to perform at the highest level at the World Cup, his scintillating start to life with Chelsea FC suggests he will be hard to leave out.

Looking to make an impression
Del Bosque is eyeing the U21s for future players with Barcelona's Munir El Haddadi, Saúl Ñíguez at Liga champions Atlético and Iker Muniain of Athletic already making an impact this season.

Last updated: 16/11/14 11.28CET

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