Spain reporter Graham Hunter discusses a squad

Author : esmeraldacalhounnew
Publish Date : 2021-07-06 13:59:20
Spain reporter Graham Hunter discusses a squad

Why Spain will win EURO 2020
Tuesday 6 July 2021 by Graham Hunter

"Luis Enrique is on a bit of a roll," says Spain reporter Graham Hunter as he senses the winning momentum from 2008 and 2012.

Things are going Luis Enrique's way
Things are going Luis Enrique's way
UEFA via Getty Images
EURO2020.com's Spain reporter Graham Hunter discusses a squad showing signs of being built in Luis Enrique's combative image, unstoppable at times, before addressing the elephant in the room.


The killer instinct is there, somewhere
When it rains, it pours. If Spain are on form, if they are happy in their skins, then a goal can lead to a torrent. It’s not their defining characteristic but it’s still a central part of their DNA.

In recent seasons they’ve put six past Argentina and Germany, five past Slovakia and Croatia, four past Ukraine and, not all that long ago, three past Italy. Twelve goals this tournament equals the total that they hit in winning UEFA EUROs 2008 and 2012 – back when they had David Villa and/or Fernando Torres!

Spain baby photo challenge
Stomach for the fight
Spain, it seems, have learned to deal with adversity. "Do the challengers have a glass jaw?" was part of the inquisitory tone of both the Spanish media and, still more, the international swarm of journalists who cover La Roja in tournaments. It was a fair point, because this is still a work in progress and had Sergio Ramos or Iñigo Martínez been fit, they’d have been in this squad.

But temporarily losing Sergio Busquets and Diego Llorente; then misfiring in front of goal, followed by tossing away a 3-1 lead against Croatia; and, on Friday, needing to go to a ‘dreaded’ shoot-out against Switzerland before winning despite missing twice. Youthful or inexperienced? Yes. Work in progress? Definitely. Bristling with character? You bet.

'Lucho' Enrique pulls no punches
Luis Enrique is on a bit of a roll. Obviously it’s crucial that a coach ‘reads’ the opposition well and I’ve quizzed him about this – they work hard on analysis. But this is a front-foot coach and squad. They believe that the emphasis lies with them to make the play and win the match, not with what the opposition does. Thus it’s utterly vital that the coach is on his game.

He has shown faith with Álvaro Morata who, generally, has paid him back. He was initially stubborn about keeping Marcos Llorente at right-back, but when he changed to César Azpilicueta, Spain evinced experience and solidity.

Morata joy after Spain win
His substitutions have been epic. Goals scored or made by the two Torres against Slovakia. Assists and goals from Pau Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal versus Croatia and a clinching penalty from Oyarzabal against Switzerland. The coach is not nicknamed ‘Lucho’ for nothing – he’s a fighter, he’s a winner.

On the other hand...
OK, there’s an elephant in the corner of the room and we may need a sports psychologist, and many hours on the couch, to talk about it and get rid of it. Spain score a lot, sure. But they miss even more. There’s been a rainbow spread of scorned opportunities. Mis-hit shots, missing the target, hitting every part of the opposition goalkeeper's body – face and head included – hitting the woodwork. You name it, Spain have done it.

And what’s worse, you can almost see and hear the crackle of nerves across the rest of the team when they think "we are working hard, we are crafting winning opportunities and … the ball doesn’t want to go in". It’s an odd phrase but one they use often – one they’re growing to hate.

Sture Sandø, Denmark reporter: Denmark will be the underdogs after being favourites in the round of 16 and quarter-finals. I don't think they will try to run England over from the get-go and look to catch them off guard, and I wouldn't be surprised if they let England take the initiative for longer periods, falling back a bit and trusting that their world-class defenders Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjær and Jannik Vestergaard can take care of things. But whether Denmark are cautious or not, the dashes down the flanks will be a Danish weapon that England must address.

View from the camps
Gareth Southgate, England manager: "We've got a fabulous opportunity. It's a chance to make history as we've never been to a European Championship final. It's not so much pressure for this team; it's another challenge that they've got the chance to take on, and at the moment they're rising to those challenges. We had two games with Denmark in the autumn. I knew what a good side they were before and they've proved that again in this tournament. It is going to be a fantastic game to be part of."

Harry Kane, England captain: "Denmark are a great team. We played them in the Nations League twice last year, and we didn't win one game – one draw, one loss. But we need to try to focus on ourselves; it is a semi-final at our national stadium and we've got to use all those positives to worry about us. We know if we get it right and play how we know we can then we have a great opportunity to get to a final. It's going to be incredible."

Schmeichel on Denmark’s EURO ’92 glory
Kasper Hjulmand, Denmark coach: "It'll be like playing an away game, but that also has its own charm, so we're actually looking forward to it. We're happy that people will be there and that the fans are back in the stadium, though obviously we would have loved it if half the stadium was dressed in Danish colours. Our motivation is to silence the spectators, but we know it's going to be difficult."

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Thomas Delaney, Denmark midfielder: "At the start of the tournament, we gave ourselves the goal of coming back to Wembley. With everything that we've been through, it's always been our No1 goal. Now we are ready for Wembley so, in terms of feelings, it has been crazy."

England's previous EURO semi-finals
Sunday 4 July 2021

England will be hoping to make it third time lucky after falling short in their two EURO semi-finals so far.

Gareth Southgate after his crucial penalty miss in the EURO '96 semi-final shoot-out
Gareth Southgate after his crucial penalty miss in the EURO '96 semi-final shoot-out
Getty Images
England face Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday looking to reach a UEFA European Championship final for the first time. We shine the spotlight on their two previous semi-final ties.


1968: Yugoslavia 1-0 England
1968 highlights: Yugoslavia 1-0 England
Having won the FIFA World Cup on home soil just two years earlier, England were looking to add continental honours to their cabinet at the tournament in Italy. However, the absence of injured duo Geoff Hurst and Nobby Stiles, key figures in that 1966 triumph, did not help their cause in Florence, especially against a strong Yugoslavia side. A hard-fought match looked to be heading for a draw until the 86th minute, when Dragan Džajić ghosted in behind Bobby Moore to control a cross from the left on his chest before smashing high into the net. Matters went from bad to worse shortly before the final whistle when Alan Mullery became the first England player to be sent off in the country's history.

1996: Germany 1-1 England (pens: 6-5)
It was almost 30 years before England reached the same stage of the competition again, spurred on as tournament hosts at EURO '96. Terry Venables's side won Group A with seven points from three games, including a thumping 4-1 win over the Netherlands on Matchday 3 that sparked a wave of optimism across the country.

EURO '96 semi-final highlights: England vs Germany
They edged Spain 4-2 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes to set up a semi-final showdown with old rivals Germany, and when Alan Shearer headed in from a corner in the third minute at Wembley, everything appeared to be going to plan. Stefan Kuntz equalised shortly afterwards, however, and although the Three Lions had a number of promising openings to restore their lead they just could not apply the finishing touch, Darren Anderton hitting the post and Paul Gascoigne agonisingly close to converting Alan Shearer's cross-shot.



Category : sports

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