Euro 2020: The Resurgence of Spain

On a clear but humid Kiev night in 2012, the golden age of Spanish football reached its crescendo. Over 60,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium watched on in awe, as La Roja won their third international tournament in a row, becoming the first and only side ever to accomplish that feat.

It was a marvellous era for the Spaniards, winning back-to-back UEFA European Championships in 2008 and 2012, with the crowning glory of a 2010 FIFA World Cup triumph wedged in-between. Nothing could match this unstoppable football force, which made their ‘tiki-taka’ style something that was often copied, yet never matched with equal success.

Heading into Euro 2020 there were doubts about the selection choices of manager Luis Enrique, who left out several big names and went with more youthful options. Despite a sluggish start in the group stage, his team are now in the quarter-finals. Looking at the latest Switzerland v Spain betting odds, they are now firm favourites to make further progress.

Spain is backed at 7/10 odds to get the job done within 90 minutes against Switzerland, the 9/2 underdogs who surprisingly managed to eliminate pre-tournament favourites France. Their own chances widely overlooked ahead of Euro 2020, the Spaniards are now valued at 16/5 outright winner odds, as Enrique’s men seek to lift the iconic Henri Delaunay Trophy.

Having scored ten goals in their last two matches, Spain appears to have slipped into top gear at just the right time. They put five past Slovakia in the final group game, then another five past Croatia in the Round of 16, albeit with extra-time needed in that last knockout game.

Interestingly, just three members of the Euro 2012 squad remain from that golden generation, with many having since retired from international football or entirely from the game. Those who remain are 35-year-old Raul Albiol, 32-year-old Sergio Busquets, and 30-year-old Jordi Alba. This is probably their last shot at winning another major international tournament.

In the past, the majority of components played their club football with Real Madrid or Barcelona, the ‘Big Two’ clubs of LaLiga. Now, there are just three Barcelona players and perhaps even more surprisingly, none from Real Madrid in the Spanish Euro 2020 squad. This reflects the preference of Enrique to focus on what he believes is a new golden generation, which includes nine players under the age of 25.

Ten members of the current 24-man Spain squad play their club football in England, which matches the number of those who ply their trade in LaLiga. Of the rest, two play in Italy, one in Germany, and one in France. That variation has actually had the effect of refreshing and revitalising the national team, which is now less reliant on that famed ‘tiki-taka’ style.

Control of possession via neat and precise passing hasn’t been eliminated entirely, of course, although the side led by Enrique has added more directness and urgency to their play. There is also an incredible sense of unity and harmony amongst the current crop of players, which is a vital boost after tournament failures in recent years.

This is a Spanish selection that has evolved, based largely around a core of younger talents, able to switch between varying styles of play to suit differing tactical needs. If they beat Switzerland and progress to the semi-finals at Euro 2020, then all the way to the final at Wembley, it could herald the beginnings of a new golden age in Spanish football.