Game of the Day: Spain vs. Czech Republic, Toulouse, 15:00
Is the end of Spanish dominance in the Euro’s ending? Its golden generation is drawing to close with Iker Casillas and Andreas Iniesta making their last appearance in European football’s showpiece event but can Vicente Del Bosque muster one last journey with the players who have delivered so much success?
When looking over the groups for the Euro’s you have to wonder how sometimes the seeding’s work because when looking over Group C (Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Northern Ireland) and in particular Group D (Spain, Croatia, Czech Republic and Turkey), you have to wonder how so many strong teams can be put with one another.
Group D is by far the worst. Whilst you look at Spain as a potential favourite to win the group that is by no means a certainty. It’s an extremely tough group and Del Bosque will know that Spain will have to start hot if they are to go on to claim 1st place.
Spain’s qualifying campaign was always going to guarantee them a place in France. Far and away the best team in their qualifying group, it’s perhaps surprising that Spain didn’t go on to score more goals against the likes of Macedonia and Belarus but Spain don’t tend to blow teams away.
With a qualifying campaign that was straight forward, it is the results from their friendlies over the last year that are so revealing of Spain’s form in the last year. Whilst you have a 1-1 draw with Italy was not a disastrous result, other results include a 0-0 draw with Romania, a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica and most recently a 1-0 defeat to Georgia. Clearly, this isn’t a vintage Spanish side and are undoubtedly in ‘transition’.
Looking at the squad, the defence picks itself with Juanfran, Ramos, Pique and Alba making up the back four. The likes of Busquets, Cesc Fabrégas, David Silva and the ever majestic Andreas Iniesta make up at the very least 3 of the starting midfield spots for Del Bosque. It is at either end of the pitch where Spain become more unpredictable.
David de Gea isn’t an automatic starter, a fact that is just baffling. Del Bosque is a loyal man and unless you step down, he will stand beside you and Iker Casillas is a case in point. The Porto stopper, whilst still a great keeper is no longer of the same calibre as de Gea. It is simply that obvious.
Secondly, Spain haven’t got a first choice striker. Not since David Villa, a player who I always felt was vastly under-rated in this country, has Spain had that foil for their midfield wizardry. With pace offered by Pedro and Nolito being more of a plan B off the bench, the starting berth is a battle between the old and the new. Aritz Aduriz and Alvaro Morata.
I don’t see how you can’t love Adruiz and how he is making the most of the twilight years in his career with Athletic Bilbao. Since joining the Basque’s in 2012 (at the age of 31), Aduriz has been a sensation. In the last two seasons, he has scored 62 goals in a 103 games. A truly brilliant return made even more better by the fact he is currently 35 years old.
Morata is offers something very different. Fast, athletic and very much at the beginning of a stellar career. Since Real Madrid agreed to sell him to Juventus two season ago, Morata has established himself as one of the best young centre forwards in Europe. Whilst not as prolific as Aduriz goal return, his movement, technical ability and work rate would certainly compliment the technicians that Spain have in midfield.
Czech Republic, at least for myself are something of an unknown quantity. Their qualifying group wasn’t the easiest (relatively speaking) with Turkey, Iceland and the mightily disappointing Holland comprising of the 4 strongest sides in their group. The Czechs however qualified as group winners, and with just the two defeats to their names, it demonstrates that whilst by no means is this the same side that once boasted Jan Koller and Pavel Nedved in their starting XI, the Czech Republic can certainly play football.
Two players however that we are all familiar with is Petr Cech and Tomas Rosicky. Petr Cech is their undisputed no.1 and a world class goalkeeper still to this day whilst Tomas Rosicky is their creator in chief. Tomas Rosicky’s career is one that has been blighted by injuries but if he can take to the field for all three group games in France, the Czech Republic will certainly stand a better chance of reaching the round of 16. However, as any Arsenal will tell you, for his brilliance, his body doesn’t particularly like playing a lot of football.
This is genuinely a hard game to call and it will fascinating to see how Spain perform in the opening two games of this tournament. If Spain go on to win, the Czech Republic certainly won’t be down cast because with three teams potentially going through, a defeat doesn’t spell the end of their tournament.
If I was a gambling man, I would go for score draw and a potentially cagey Spanish performance.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog