The dust hasn’t even settled yet on their Euro 2012 win and Spain are already targeting more glory. Rather than silverware though, this time they’ll be aiming for gold – Olympic gold to be exact.
A 22-man squad was named on Tuesday which will soon be reduced to 18 ahead of the short trip to London, where Spain will embark on an important piece of business. Ever since the Euro U21 victory last summer it has been the desire of Spain’s coaching staff throughout all levels to achieve an Olympic win.
After all, this tournament comes around every four years and brings with it great prestige. Importantly for Spain, though, it represents an excellent opportunity to progress its young players – there are no veteran footballers here. Even then, Spain have named an incredibly strong squad led by familiar names who would walk into most top sides.
This is just the first factor as to why Spain will be victorious in the capital. The tournament allows just three players over the age of 23; Spain have picked Juan Mata, Javi Martínez and Adrián López. Mata is coming off the back of an outstanding debut season with Chelsea, Martínez is probably the most sought-after midfielder in Europe at the moment, while Adrián was an integral part of Atlético Madrid’s Europa League success. All three were key members of of Spain’s U21 side and will take on the responsibility to continue a fine summer of football for La Roja. Importantly, all three have had a good rest; Mata and Martínez featured infrequently in Poland and Ukraine, while Adrián has been on his holidays.
If that’s not enough for you, they’re backed by an incredible supporting cast. David de Gea stood up to his critics at Manchester United last season and has his eye on a full Spain berth in the near future. Thiago Alcántara is also present; the silky Barcelona midfielder has overcome injury and will use his Spanish-Brazilian fusion to unlock defences in London. Then there is Iker Muniain, the Athletic Bilbao youngster who captured a wider audience with his ferocious displays in the Europa League last season. His hunger and exuberance on the field is a joy to watch. These names provide a glimpse as to how seriously Spain will be taking this tournament and how they intend to secure those medals.
If that wasn’t enough, there was a surprise in the inclusion of Jordi Alba. After sparkling at Euro 2012 and signing for Barcelona, he’s been selected in the squad to add more experience despite being just 23. His rampages down the left side, which excited so many in recent weeks, will be in display, and he’ll be hoping to produce a star turn in London. Asked if he was tired yesterday, Alba simply said he feels fine and wants more football. The attitude is that of a winner, and one whom desires more success. In fact, the hunger throughout the squad is huge: after watching the seniors grab glory against Italy they also want a piece of the glory.
Luis Milla is the man in charge of the group. His track record proves that it’s not just the players that are highly rated. Milla led Spain U21s to victory and has achieved praise from all around Spain from his peers and players. A fine tactician and motivator, he works well with the young players; he knows what makes them tick and is not afraid to sacrifice the bigger names if it’s best for the team. A job at a top club surely awaits him when this tournament is over.
Spain are equipped for more glory, only this time it’s the youngsters leading the charge. Their strength in depth, experience and ability will come to the fore as they look to keep the Spanish torch of success alight in London.
Spain are 1.22 to win Group D at the Olympics, and 3.00 to win the whole tournament.