A poor performance in the Brazil World Cup led to claims that Spain would soon lose their status as Europe’s greatest team.
Do Spain have the strength to make history and win a third European Championship in a row at Euro 2016?
Route to Euro 2016
To the surprise of many, the current holders lost their second match 2-1 away to Slovakia. This called an end to an unbeaten run of 36 qualifiers and added fuel to the notion that the Spain national squad are past their best.
Despite this setback, Spain got it together and won their last eight games to qualify as winners of Qualifying Group C, five points ahead of runners-up, Slovakia.
Both Andrés Iniesta and Gerard Piqué were superb, with the latter setting the pace of games from the back.
Meanwhile, David Silva was at his creative best and Sergio Ramos was an imposing presence when fit.
However, Spain’s qualifiers were notable for Diego Costa’s lack of impact (except when picking up yellow cards).
Spain have won three Euros (1964, 2008 and 2012) and in that sense are matched only by Germany (1972, 1980, 1996).
After beating USSR 1-0 in 1964, it was another 44 years before Spain’s reputation as perennial underachievers was proven wrong.
In the 2008 final, a single goal from Fernando Torres was enough to beat Germany in the final of a tournament they dominated from the start. In 2012, critics dismissed Spain as ‘boring’, and they certainly took a while to get into their groove.
Spain needed a penalty shootout to take them past Portugal and into the final, but they rose to the occasion with style as they thrashed Italy 4-0.
Vicente del Bosque
As Real Madrid manager, Vicente del Bosque won two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues. However, he was sacked inexplicably in 2003, just days after he led the team to its 29th league title.
Del Bosque spent a season at Beşiktaş (2004/05), before replacing Luis Aragonés as head coach of Spain in 2008. The led the team to the World Cup trophy in 2010 and a second European Championship in four years at Euro 2012.
Del Bosque’s only bump in the road so far has been failing to defend the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil, where his team lost 5-1 to Holland in their opening game and failed to reach the knockout phase.
His critics point to a perceived failure to see that the likes of David Villa, Torres and Xavi were past their best.
Most important player
At 31, Andrés Iniesta is still the world’s finest midfielder. The Barcelona captain boasts great control, technique and balance. Del Bosque calls Iniesta “the complete footballer”.
This is an apt description for the man who can defend, attack and create scoring chances from nothing without even breaking a sweat.
22-year-old striker, Paco Alcácer, has scored six goals in 11 caps for Spain. He had a glittering youth career and continues to impress in the Valencia first team, as well as for Spain.
His pace allows him to exploit space on the right, while his wiry build and innate strength make him very good at holding up play.
Spain are third favourites to win the tournament. Despite a setback in the World Cup, 5/1 gives punters great odds for a squad including the likes of Iniesta, who remains unstoppable.
The fact that the brilliant Manchester United keeper, David de Gea, is second choice in the squad further demonstrates their strength.
While some players proved past their best in the last World Cup, there are a number of new faces in the team that add much needed strength to the team.
Here at Ladbrokes, we think that punters will dismiss Spain’s chances at their peril.