Gorgeous kits, gorgeous passers and nothing else; that’s what defines Spain since their golden generation disappeared into the abyss although not many believe that. Luis Enrique still doesn’t have his first XI and doesn’t believe his side are great and, on that note, here is why La Furia Rojas suck.
Your team: Spain (Euro record: Three-time champions, qualified for every tournament since 1996)
Record since Euro 2016: 31 wins, 17 draws, 5 losses
17 draws. Just let that sink in, 17 games that have ended level or goalless, although mostly with Spain struggling to find a way through and yet people have the audacity to say they’re still good. No, they’re not, they may never be a man short in midfield but Spain are no longer that ruthless, overly effective and just downright gorgeous side they once were. That three tournaments/four-year dynasty they created was absurd but since then, Spain have been crap.
That’s right, I said crap. You can’t claim to be a top tier international team if you haven’t won a god-damn knockout game in nearly a decade. The 2014 World Cup? Out in the group stages. The 2018 World Cup? Out in the Round of 16 to a Russian side that had no business being there. The Euros since their 2012 win? Out in the Round of 16 to Italy at the 2016 tournament with them also losing in group stages of the 2018/19 UEFA Nations League.
Add that to the Confederations Cup final loss to Brazil and then there’s the number of draws in their 53 games since the 2016 Euros. That’s 32%, they’ve drawn 32% of their games in the last five years and yes that does include three head coach changes, but that’s a story for the next point. The fact of the matter is that Spain aren’t really very good anymore and any loss they endure at the Euros will be put down to the fact that they have no Real Madrid player.
Like Sergio Ramos is going to step up and score a 90+ winner for them, he can’t even do that for Real Madrid anymore and even if he wanted to, well he should be fit. The same goes for Lucas Vasquez, Dani Carvajal, Isco, Alvaro Odriozola, or even Marco Asensio. Although picking a right-back beyond Cesar Azpilicueta might have helped them more than the 29 midfielders they did instead.
The man leading the charge: Luis Enrique
Managing the Spanish national team has been a dangerous job over the last few years especially if you succeed Vicente del Bosque. But the way things have imploded for both Julen Lopetegui and Robert Moreno has been overly dramatic and utterly perfect for a soap opera. Not a team that’s supposed to be properly run by a football association many consider to be one of the greatest. That’s if you consider being dysfunctional and acting on your ego, especially sacking Lopetegui and everything that follows with it to perfect.
But we’re moving away from the topic because this is about Luis Enrique. The manager/head coach, who will be leading Spain’s charge and yet, as far as a genuine chance goes, Spain have none. What Enrique has done is exactly what he did with Barcelona with one slightly major difference. He doesn’t have Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Lionel Messi, Neymar or Luis Suarez. Instead, he’s got a combination of David De Gea, Unai Simon, Alvaro Morata, Ferran Torres and Sergio Busquets. And then there’s the question of what really is Spain’s identity under Enrique?
The answer is nostalgic brilliance with a few tweaks. Tiki-Taka in an age of football that was solely created to destroy tiki-taka but with a variation on it which includes more runners, a slightly more robust midfield and the complete lack of a creative/between the lines passer. That is beyond Thiago and the ageing legs of Sergio Busquets although both Fabian Ruiz and Dani Olmo, on their day, are brilliant at that. It’s the inconsistency that kills football teams and Enrique’s Furia Rojas define that sometimes with them, admittedly, brilliant occasionally but mostly clueless and passing the ball about.
Harsh that might be but c’est la vie and the classic trope fits here because the thing about Spain is, they’re trying to pass the ball into the net with Alvaro Morata leading their line. Why? Because Enrique doesn’t rate the one man who scored the most goals by a Spanish player, Gerard Moreno, even if he picked him and because Morata’s excuse that VAR took away 30 goals from him makes more sense.
Alvaro Morata: Booed off the field in Spain’s first pre-tournament friendly, I really don’t think Morata qualifies for this but he was wearing the captain’s armband at one point, so what do I know? The Spaniard has been shockingly bad this season with him, quite literally, scoring a hattrick of offside goals this season in the Champions League. It’s weird how on the fringes of being good Morata has always been and yet, after one of his worst scoring seasons, the on-loan Atletico Madrid forward is the man leading the Spanish charge.
Thiago Alcantara: The jokes and ignominy that Thiago suffered in his first season playing in England was about on part as to what many expected him to suffer. But yet, at the same time, with a proper midfield in place, you’d always want Thiago a part of it, no matter how many thumbs-ups he hands out per game. It’s about 8 or 9, I’m led to believe, which is well above average for an elite footballer and not what we’d expect from someone as good as Thiago. He needs to pump those numbers up.
The collective: Spain has never been a side with a superstar and yes, that does include their Golden Generation that swept to three international trophies. Sure Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Santi Cazorla, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Iker Casillas and the rest were the best at what they did but were they superstars? Bankable players who would be the focal point and, at times, the entire strength of the team because that was never Spain. They were built in Pep Guardiola’s ideal world; aka total footballers who were all about the collective. That seems to have dissipated under Enrique which is a good thing because the sum of these here parts aren’t greater than the individual.
What’s new that sucks:
The hate surrounding the fact that Luis Enrique has picked no Real Madrid player. Face it Los Blancos fans, your team sucks and are completely dependent on the way Karim Benzema performs. It’s sad to say but everyone was shocked at the fact that Zinedine Zidane even managed to win a La Liga title and lead that side to a Champions League semi-final. Plus the fact that your Spanish players haven’t really done well, or lived up to any hype in a while, does not help your case.
So stop hating/whining, support the Spanish national team and accept the fact that the team picked has components far better than what any Spanish player playing for Real Madrid could offer. Yes, that does include Sergio Ramos (who spent the entire season injured, more like half but you get the point), Marco Asensio, Isco and Dani Ceballos who was bad at Arsenal. At Arsenal. Let that sink in.
What’s old that sucks:
This is a team that once ran world football. Then in 2014 they were shocked, humiliated and thrown aside before 2018 saw them offer nothing more than a whimper after 1000 plus passes. That hasn’t changed and if the 0-0 to Portugal proves absolutely anything, it’s that Spain are still the same old tiki-taka side and will absolutely never change that. Stubborn to the very end it seems even if there are a few tweaks to this form of the taka.
It doesn’t change the fact that football has changed. The world has changed and absolutely nobody wants to see a team pass the ball a billion times and fluff the only four chances they get. Yet, that’s Spain for you and something tells us, not even this piece will change that.
What might give you some hope:
The fact that Spain isn’t all that bad. While the 0-0 against Portugal wasn’t great, it showed just what the Spanish side offers on their day. Which is a proper solid midfield, excellent full-backs and a team that can create chances. Now all they need is Alvaro Morata to have arguably one of the luckiest tournaments he’ll ever have and they’re golden. Well, it's either that or Luis Enrique could play the 23 league goal-scorer (30 across all comps) he has in the form of Gerard Moreno. The man that only Lionel Messi outscored instead of Morata, the man with half the number of league goals as Moreno. Well Moreno-of-the-story.