Spain are entering yet another a major tournament beset by calamities. Before the start of Euro 2016, goalkeeper David de Gea was at the centre of a controversy after being involved in an investigation into a Spanish pornography filmmaker. Two years later, coach Julen Lopetegui was fired two days before their opening encounter in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, for accepting the Real Madrid job, leaving the ‘La Roja’ camp in disarray.
Now, a COVID scare is threatening to derail the three-time European champions’ quest for a fourth crown before it even begins.
Captain Sergio Busquests went into a ten-day isolation period following his positive test on Sunday. He is set to miss the opening clash against Sweden on June 14, with his participation in the rest of the tournament still in doubt. Diego Llorente becomes the second player to have contracted the virus, the Spanish Federation revealed on Tuesday, although he returned a negative test on Thursday.
The entire Spanish Euro 2020 squad is currently in isolation, with a “parallel squad” of 17 reserves prepared to take the field in case the virus spreads to more players, AFP reported. The team also didn’t get to play its final warm-up match against Lithuania on Tuesday, with players from the under-21 squad starring in the 4-0 win.
But Enrique is not losing hope on his captain, saying Busquets will be in the final squad list “for sure”. And the veteran anchor in midfield is still one of the very best in his roles, particularly impressing as Barcelona came close to a domestic double in the 2020-21 campaign. Liverpool’s Thiago and Manchester City’s Rodri have both grown in stature in the Premier League, while Koke helped Atletico Madrid to their first league title in seven years.
Around them is a crop of hungry young talents, itching to prove their worth, including Manchester City’s Ferran Torres, Barcelona’s Pedri Gonzales, RB Leipzig’s Dani Olmo, Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal and Wolverhampton Wanderer’s Adama Traore.
Question marks still loom over the team’s goal-scoring department, which has lacked a world-class striker since the days of Fernando Torres and David Villa. While Alvaro Morata and Gerard Moreno have a combined 73 goal involvements this season, none of them have been tested at a major tournament with their country.
Sergio Ramos’ omission will deplete the starting lineup of leadership and experience at the back. However, Aymeric Laporte’s decision to switch nationalities from France will come as a big respite for Enrique who can file one of Villareal’s Pau Torres or Manchester City’s Eric Garcia to partner the French-born defender.
Just as he did during his time at Barcelona, Enrique has transitioned Spain away from ‘tiki-taka’ to a more direct brand of football. This has yielded mixed results in the 51-year-old’s tenure so far, with the last six competitive games including a 6-0 rout of Germany in the Nations League in November and a drab 1-1 draw against Greece in a World Cup qualifier in March.
Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion)
Defenders: Jose Gaya (Valencia), Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Diego Llorente (Leeds United), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Midfielders: Fabian Ruiz (Napoli), Pedri (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri Hernandez (Manchester City), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool).
Forwards: Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Adama Traore (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain).
Group stage schedule:
Spain vs Sweden: Tuesday, June 15, 12:30 am (IST)
Spain vs Poland: Sunday, June 20, 12:30 am (IST)
Slovakia vs Spain: Wednesday, June 23, 9:30 pm (IST)
Key players: Alvaro Morata, Thiago Alcantara, Aymeric Laporte.