Team reporter Graham Hunter anticipates

Author : esmeraldacalhounnew
Publish Date : 2021-07-07 11:27:17
Team reporter Graham Hunter anticipates

EURO 2020 review: Spain
Wednesday 7 July 2021

Team reporter Graham Hunter anticipates a bright future for Pedri and Co and looks forward to Spain's semi-final reunion with Italy in the UEFA Nations League later this year.

The Spain players applaud their fans following their semi-final defeat by Italy
The Spain players applaud their fans following their semi-final defeat by Italy
Getty Images
After a slow start, Spain improved as EURO 2020 progressed, smashing five goals past both Slovakia and Croatia to assert their title credentials. They remained prone to wayward finishing, however, and squeezed past Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-finals before suffering shoot-out agony of their own against Italy in the last four.


What were the positives?
Pedri: 'I always try to trick my opponent'
They were numerous – but it would be unbelievably contrary not to say, loudly: PEDRI. Luis Enrique is generally blunt, not prone to exaggeration and far more likely to bring his players down to earth. But post that dramatic loss to Italy, he stated that nobody, ever, had played a debut tournament like Pedri had aged 18. "Not even Andrés Iniesta," he added.

But what about Aymeric Laporte? His adopted nation will grow to love him. Eric García, too, looks a wonderful centre-back partner. There are more pluses, Dani Olmo certainly being one. But all will seem brighter once the bitter taste of defeat recedes.

1964: Spain 2-1 Hungary (aet)
The Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid was the setting for Spain's first ever EURO finals match. Spearheaded by the outstanding Luis Suárez, José Villalonga's charges seemed set for a place in the finals when Jesús María Pereda planted a first-half header in the top corner, but Ferenc Bene's predatory finish took the tie into extra time. With time running out in the additional period, Amancio Amaro pounced to prod in the winner after José Maria Fusté had headed down a Carlos Lapetra corner – Spain would leave it late to seal victory in the final against the Soviet Union too.

EURO 1964 semi-final highlights: Spain 2-1 Hungary
1984: Denmark 1-1 Spain (pens: 4-5)
The drama in Spain's next last-four outing took place in a penalty shoot-out in Lyon. Such a finish looked highly unlikely when Søren Lerby gave Denmark an early lead and Frank Arnesen struck the post in an impressive first-half showing from Sepp Piontek's side. However, La Roja were a different proposition thereafter, with Antonio Maceda levelling in the 90 minutes and Lobo Carrasco going close twice in extra time, where Denmark were reduced to ten men. Preben Elkjær was probably the last player expected to fail in the shoot-out but his miss ensured Miguel Muñoz's men reached the showpiece – France would take the glory there though.

Tournament highlight
If it was a match, putting five past Slovakia. If it were 'moments', then the combination of two Basque men, hands across the Real Sociedad-Athletic Club divide, putting Spain into the semi-finals during that crazy shoot-out against the Swiss. Unai Simón's superb pair of saves, Mikel Oyarzabal's nerveless spot-kick winner. And the goalkeeper's uncontrollable joy at having gone from 'villain' to hero in a matter of days.

What the future holds
Spain team-mates quiz: García & Torres
First of all, it holds the return of absent footballers who were out injured. Dani Carvajal, Ansu Fati… whisper it, but perhaps even Sergio Ramos. Yet the key thing to take from this EURO is the minuscule turnaround before Spain and Italy meet in another semi-final – the UEFA Nations League in Milan this autumn. The world will be drooling at a repeat of the drama, the quality and the beauty of this kind of football.

Predictions for the rest of EURO 2020
I predict that a lot of people will suddenly discover how fond they were of Spain's daring play now that La Roja are out. I predict that Italy have lost and won here – won a huge surge of confidence and self-belief but also burned up a massive store of nervous and physical energy. Regardless of who the Azzurri play on Sunday night, it will be a five-star finale to a fabulous tournament. Guaranteed.
Spain's previous EURO semi-finals
Tuesday 6 July 2021

La Roja will be defending a perfect last-four record when they take on Italy at Wembley Stadium this time around.

Spain celebrate their opener against Russia in the 2008 semi-finals
Spain celebrate their opener against Russia in the 2008 semi-finals

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AFP via Getty Images
Spain will be competing in their fifth EURO semi-final on Tuesday and Italy will have the unenviable task of ending their unblemished record in the last four. We take a look back at this profitable stage of the competition for La Roja.


1964: Spain 2-1 Hungary (aet)
The Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid was the setting for Spain's first ever EURO finals match. Spearheaded by the outstanding Luis Suárez, José Villalonga's charges seemed set for a place in the finals when Jesús María Pereda planted a first-half header in the top corner, but Ferenc Bene's predatory finish took the tie into extra time. With time running out in the additional period, Amancio Amaro pounced to prod in the winner after José Maria Fusté had headed down a Carlos Lapetra corner – Spain would leave it late to seal victory in the final against the Soviet Union too.

EURO 1964 semi-final highlights: Spain 2-1 Hungary
1984: Denmark 1-1 Spain (pens: 4-5)
The drama in Spain's next last-four outing took place in a penalty shoot-out in Lyon. Such a finish looked highly unlikely when Søren Lerby gave Denmark an early lead and Frank Arnesen struck the post in an impressive first-half showing from Sepp Piontek's side. However, La Roja were a different proposition thereafter, with Antonio Maceda levelling in the 90 minutes and Lobo Carrasco going close twice in extra time, where Denmark were reduced to ten men. Preben Elkjær was probably the last player expected to fail in the shoot-out but his miss ensured Miguel Muñoz's men reached the showpiece – France would take the glory there though.

2008: Russia 0-3 Spain
Was this the game that ushered in Spain's era of international dominance? An equally free-flowing Russia side offered a major test of the credentials of Luis Aragonés' charges but their response was emphatic. Xavi Hernández broke the deadlock, and Russia's spirit, five minutes after half-time by steering Andrés Iniesta's fine left-wing cross past Igor Akinfeev, and La Roja eased to victory with further goals from Daniel Güiza and David Silva. They would scratch their 44-year itch in the final against Germany thanks to Fernando Torres' winner – a first FIFA World Cup would follow two years later.

Watch Xavi strike for Spain in the EURO 2008 semi-finals
2012: Portugal 0-0 Spain (pens 2-4)
The European and world champions were the team to beat in 2012 and no side came closer to toppling them than their Iberian rivals. Vicente del Bosque's well-oiled machine spluttered for much of the contest, though penalties would have been avoided had Rui Patrício not denied Andrés Iniesta from point-blank range in extra time. La Roja kept their nerve, however, converting four spot kicks in a row after Xabi Alonso's initial miss to progress. No team had ever won three consecutive major tournaments but Spain would create history in sensational fashion by beating Italy 4-0 in the final.



Category : sports

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