Spain's gang of lovable misfits are the must-watch team at Euro 2024

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Can Spain replicate their glories of the recent past and become European Champions once again?

They were the perennial underachievers, the dark horses that never found the winners parade and went on to became the history-making tiki-taka tormentors - but where are Spain at this current point in time?

Of all of the sides that have featured so far in the opening days of Euro 2024, the Spanish have intrigued me more than any other. They have a curious mix of exciting young talents that rank alongside the brightest prospects in world football, experienced and successful older heads and players with a point to prove.

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Take for example, former Newcastle United forward Ayoze Perez, Chelsea’s Marc Cucurella and Bayer Leverkusen’s rampaging wing-back Alejandro Grimaldo. Despite their respective ages of 30, 25 and 28, the trio are relative newcomers to the international scene and have combined total of just ten senior caps between them. Then there is Joselu, a striker that endured torrid spells at Stoke City and Newcastle, yet strides out at Euro 2024 as a La Liga champion and Champions League winner after a stunning loan spell at Real Madrid.

Of course, there is true class within the Spanish ranks as Manchester City’s Rodri provides the discipline and ballast in a midfield littered with creative talent and the composure and experience of Dani Carvajal will be essential as he marshals the defensive from right-back. As we saw in Saturday’s win over Croatia, for all of the detractors he faced during his time at Chelsea, Alvaro Morata is a force to be reckoned with when he is used in the correct manner and is provided with service that will bring the best out of him.

There are some echoes of the recent glorious past with Barcelona midfielder Pedri providing a hint of what former Camp Nou legends Andres Iniesta and Xavi provided Spanish sides in their World Cup and European Championship wins of the last 20 years. Only a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered on international duty in October prevented club team-mate Gavi from taking his place in the squad and enhancing comparisons with Barca’s legendary midfield duo. In wide positions, Spain boast two of the most exciting wingers at the tournament with Barcelona’s 16-year-old prodigy Lamine Yamal and Athletic Bilbao’s quicksilver wide-man Nico Williams possessing the tools to threaten even the strongest of full-backs.

Yet even in what felt like a professional display in that win against an ageing Croatia side, there was still an element of something missing in this Spanish side. Perhaps it’s cruel to keep harking back to the legendary Spanish side that made history over the last two decades - but they showed their successors in La Furia Roja ranks that successful sides are built on a solid base. Who can forget Spain’s outstanding backline consisting of Ramos, Puyol, Pique and Alba that was backed up by a world class goalkeepers in Real Madrid icon Iker Casillas?

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There may well have been a feeling Spain dominated Croatia in their tournament opener - but a deeper dive into statistics showed it was the beaten side that enjoyed more possession, had more shots, more touches in the opposition area and forced the opposing goalkeeper into more saves. Could that point to Spain still searching for the right balance in their side as the ceded the majority of possession to an opponent for the first time in 136 competitive matches? There was still a feeling of openness to Spain during the game and one that could be punished by a higher calibre opponent that Croatia, who command respect for their recent performances at major tournaments but maybe fall short of the best that Euro 2024 has to offer.

There is experience within Spain’s defence, with Real Madrid duo Nacho and Dani Carvajal boasting 71 caps between them - but the onus will be on them to guide Real Sociedad’s Robin Le Normand (12 caps) and Cucurella (5 caps) throughout their maiden international tournament. Much like England, you suspect the Spanish could be vulnerable in defence when they face the strongest opposition in the tournament.

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But that vulnerability could well be part of Spain’s attraction this summer. Yes, they probably can be ‘got at’ - but the energy and electricity they possess at the top end of the pitch means they will almost guarantee plenty of thrills and spills for the neutral. Again, to compare them to England, they have forwards capable of unlocking the best of defences and will be wonderful to watch if they are on the front foot. However, we will only see just how good this Spanish side are when they are put under pressure by the best forward players at Euro 2024.

So where are Spain right now? Too good to be dark horses and perhaps not quite good enough at this point in time to be viewed as leading contenders - but no matter how we tag them, they sure are going to be fun to watch!

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