Euro 2024

June 24, 2024

Spain still ‘a long way’ from matching predecessors at Euro 2024

Spain still ‘a long way’ from matching predecessors at Euro 2024

Spain’s forward #19 Lamine Yamal (C) and teammates attend a MD-1 training session at the team’s base camp in Donaueschingen, on June 23, 2024, on the eve of their UEFA Euro 2024 Group B football match against Albania. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente has claimed his team still have much work to do if they are to follow in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors and win this year’s European Championship.

“We have a long way to go to reach the level of champion Spain teams,” De la Fuente told reporters on Sunday in Dusseldorf, where his side play Albania in their final Euro 2024 group game on Monday.

“We know we have a lot of room for improvement, even if we feel we are doing something right.

“What we want is to be competitive. We have players who can play in various positions which makes us versatile and more unpredictable.

“We are a long way from reaching the level of the Spain teams that were champions, but we are optimistic and confident.”

Spain, who have been European champions three times including in consecutive editions in 2008 and 2012, have already clinched qualification for the last 16 from Group B.

They followed a 3-0 win over Croatia in their opening match at the tournament with a 1-0 victory against reigning champions Italy on Thursday, a result which guaranteed them top spot.

“There is a lot on the line for us. This is about prestige and recognition, but we also want to keep improving,” said De la Fuente, who has hinted that he may make several changes to his starting line-up against Albania ahead of a last-16 tie in Cologne next Sunday.

“We are planning to play the best team for this game. This is a competition in which, all going to plan, you play seven matches, and we want to field the best players for what we need here.

“We are not thinking about possible bookings or injuries, just about winning.”

Key midfielder Rodri, of Manchester City, cannot play against Albania as he serves a suspension for picking up bookings in Spain’s first two matches.

Defensive duo Dani Carvajal and Robin Le Normand are both one yellow card away from being banned for the last 16.

Defender Nacho and forward Ayoze Perez are both expected to miss Monday’s match due to injury.

Spain will play a best third-place finisher in the next round, but a harder path awaits from there, with Portugal already on their side of the draw and Germany looking like possible quarter-final opponents.

“We haven’t seen the real side of a lot of teams,” De la Fuente said.

“We know about the potential of some of them who already looking very competitive, but there are others who everyone likes to call favourites but who have not yet got going.

“In one-off games there is no room for manoeuvre and it is from the last 16 that we will see everyone’s real potential.”