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Racing Post - Euro 2020 - 2021-06-03

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Former European kings are not the force of old

EURO 2020 GROUP E

AARON ASHLEY

SPAIN were international football’s dominant force between 2008 and 2012 as they twice tasted European Championship glory either side of ruling the world in South Africa. La Roja became the first nation to win three consecutive major titles and their golden generation were regularly tagged as the best international team of all-time. But as the members of that award-winning cast hung up their boots one by one, results suffered and they have since undergone a phase of transition. Spain crashed out in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup and their subsequent two efforts in major competition have resulted in last-16 exits. Recent signs have been more encouraging, though, as they eased through qualifying, topping a section featuring Group E rivals Sweden. Luis Enrique’s men have also subsequently won a Nations League group consisting of Germany, Switzerland and Ukraine, which culminated in a 6-0 rout of the Germans in Seville – the location for all three of their Group E fixtures. However, underwhelming performances in their opening three games of World Cup qualifying are a reminder that they are not the force of old. There have also been some shock omissions to their latest squad, with Enrique completely snubbing Real Madrid’s La Roja contingent, including Sergio Ramos. Even so, Enrique looks to have the right blend of youth and experience in his squad and the inclusion of Aymeric Laporte, who switched allegiance from France to Spain, will help navigate the loss of Ramos. There is healthy competition in midfield with skipper Sergio Busquets likely to partner Thiago Alcantara and Koke, while there are worse striking options to have at your disposal than Alvaro Morata and Villarreal’s goal machine Gerard Moreno.

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