UEFA EURO 2020 contenders in focus: Spain
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Setting their sights on an unprecedented fourth trophy at UEFA EURO 2020, Spain are among the contenders again.
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Final tournaments: 10
EURO best: winners (1964, 2008, 2012)
Arguably the continent’s strongest footballing nation in club competition, Spain's national side were seen as serial underachievers by fans and pundits during a 44-year barren spell between their first success in 1964 and their recapture of the trophy in 2008 and 2012. In winning those latter editions, they became the only side in EURO history to claim back-to-back titles.
Thiago Alcántara (42 caps, two goals)
The Liverpool midfielder is a calming presence in the centre of the park and his metronomic passing means he is a perfect fit for Spain’s preferred possession-based playing style. With Sergio Ramos absent from the squad, his experience and nous at the highest level will be key for Luis Enrique’s side.
One to watch: Gerard Moreno (10 caps, 5 goals)
The forward may have only made his debut in 2019, but he has taken his excellent club form with Villarreal onto the international stage, netting five times in his ten appearances for La Roja, and is already an important focal point for Luis Enrique’s side.
Memorable EURO goals
• Two goals in the opening ten minutes made for a cagey final in the 1964 UEFA European Championship. Six minutes from time, however, Marcelino sent almost 80,000 spectators wild at Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu as he glanced in Spain's winner.
• Spain looked to be heading out of UEFA EURO 2000 as they trailed 3-2 to ten-man Yugoslavia in a must-win group stage match. Thrown a lifeline in the 94th minute, Gaizka Mendieta levelled from the penalty spot, before Alfonso Pérez struck the winner a minute later to seal their place in the quarter-finals.
• Fernando Torres's impish dink over Jens Lehmann clinched Spain's second EURO title in the 2008 final against Germany in Vienna.
• The ice-cool Cesc Fàbregas converted the winning penalty in both of Spain’s most recent EURO shoot-out victories: 2008's quarter-final win over Italy and the semi-final against Portugal four years later.
• Spain had already beaten Russia in their opening group stage game at EURO 2008, but the Russians soon gained momentum, eliminating the Netherlands in the quarter-finals to become the tournament dark horses for many. However, when the sides met again in the semis, Spain cruised to an impressive 3-0 victory.
• Ending 44 years of hurt to claim the EURO 2008 title, the final whistle in Vienna was enough to warm anyone’s heart – unless, perhaps, you are German.
Most final tournament appearances
16: Cesc Fàbregas, Andrés Iniesta
15: Sergio Ramos, David Silva
14: Iker Casillas
Most final tournament goals
5: Fernando Torres
4: David Villa
3: Cesc Fàbregas, Álvaro Morata, Alfonso Pérez, David Silva
Killer stat: Spain are the only nation to have won back-to-back EURO titles. In between their victories in 2008 and 2012 they lifted the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Did you know?
• Spain did not concede a goal in the knockout phases of their 2008 and 2012 triumphs.
• Their 4-0 victory over Italy in 2012 remains a EURO record for the joint highest-scoring final.
• Until their defeat against Croatia in the third group game of EURO 2016, Spain had not been beaten in their previous 14 final tournament matches: six in 2008, six in 2012 and two in 2016. However, they have lost their last two; the aforementioned defeat by Croatia and their last-16 elimination by Italy.
• Luis Enrique is one of eight EURO 2020 coaches to have also played at a EURO. The others are: Didier Deschamps (France), Roberto Mancini (Italy), Stanislav Cherchesov (USSR/Russia), Frank De Boer (Netherlands), Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine), Gareth Southgate (England) and Paulo Sousa (Portugal/Poland).