Spain will be looking to assert themselves as a side still to be feared when they take on the Czech Republic at the Stadium de Toulouse on Monday.
La Furia Roja are the current holders of the Euro title. In fact, they will be seeking to make it an unprecedented third consecutive title at this summer’s edition. However, a poor World Cup showing has damaged their credibility, and whilst they are still viewed as a possible contender, they are not most people’s number one favorites to win it.
Still, the same could be said about Italy. Back in 2010, the Azzurri similarly crashed and burned at the World Cup, four years after winning it in Berlin. Many had written them off, and yet they made it all the way to the finals, beating Germany in the semi-finals along the way. Vincente del Bosque’s side find themselves in a similar position, but the absence of high expectations could certainly play to their advantage.
Furthermore, their group, whilst tricky, certainly is not the worst they could have received. With Croatia powering past Turkey to temporarily top their group, Spain will want to make sure they put themselves in good position to take on the Vatreni by picking up maximum points against the Czech Republic. And although they have won their last three meetings with the Czechs, there are some major concerns about the squad leading up to this game.
Whilst Spain do not have any injury worries, with Alvaro Morata reportedly recovering from a thigh complaint, the recent buzz surrounding David de Gea could not have come at a more inopportune time, and indeed, the timing of an alleged rape complaint against the Manchester United shot-stopper is quite suspect. In any case, reports that he was sent home from the squad are totally unfounded, but this means that del Bosque could opt instead to field Iker Casillas in between the posts.
And given that he was far from his very best at the World Cup, as well as made some serious errors for new club Porto, Spain’s fans will certainly be very concerned about his ability to still perform at the highest level. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the pitch will be Petr Cech, who had a solid season in his debut term with Arsenal. In terms of qualifiers, Pavel Vrba’s men topped Group A, which included recording impressive home and away wins over the Netherlands.
Since becoming an independent nation, the Czech Republic have qualified for every singel Euro tournament. The team’s best performance was in 2004, when they were undeservedly defeated by a Greece side who epitomized the concept of “parking the bus” – by hunkering down and making their few offensive chances count. To date, however, the best result they have earned against Spain has been one draw, and they have only scored one goal against La Furia Roja. That was courtesy of Jaroslav Plašil’s effort during a Euro 2012 qualifying clash over five years ago.
So which side will come out on top? Well. despite their indifferent showings against Italy and shocking loss to lowly Georgia, Spain are coming into this tournament on an eight-game competitive winning streak, during which they have not conceded a goal. The Czech Republic have improved quite a bit since Vrba’s arrival and they will have everyone fit and available for this match. However, despite La Furia Roja’s surprise defeat by Georgia, they are the overwhelming favorites to clinch all three points ahead of their next clash – against Turkey – on Friday.