Is Spain's new golden generation taking shape?
Background image: Roberto, CC BY-SA 4.0
Spain’s road to redemption has been rather treacherous. Following World Cup embarrassment last summer, Luis Enrique was brought in to steady to ship. Personal reasons forced him to leave in June. He recently revealed the tragic death of his nine-year-old daughter. For La Roja, it meant back to square one.
Dropping from European and World champions to struggling to retain a top-ten place in the FIFA rankings has sunken Spain's reputation. However, there's light appearing at the end of their tunnel. Enrique’s former assistant, Robert Moreno’s adapting to his first big managerial role.
La Roja have refound hope. They top Group F in Euro 2020 qualifying having picked up a maximum 15 points. Their youth coming through proves Spanish football's on the rise. That optimism is due to those who have shone at junior-level. La Furia Roja dominated the European U-21 Championship earlier this year.
Having achieved success at that level, Spain's youth must now help return the senior team's glory days. The chemistry they share will aid this process. Their new midfield, in particular, has the potential to form another special combination.
Having battled on two occasions to win the U-21 Euros, Dani Ceballos bleeds Espana. The 23-year-old's deft touches, swift spins and lively attitude make them a silkier side. Fabian Ruiz, also 23, is another dynamic midfielder boasting a high-range distribution technique, finding spaces not many else can. Moreover, his work-rate is an important part of maintaining La Roja's possession-domination style.
The third musketeer to this Spanish trio is the ever-dependable, Saul Niguez. At 24, a more experienced member, he anchors their rhythm with ease. Rarely dispossessed while possessing the vision along with wherewithal to find his team-mates, he’s their trump card in midfield. His knack for goals and set-piece prowess cannot be undermined.
Thankfully for those flourishing midfielders, they have a valuable mentor. Sergio Busquets helps ease the tension by acting as their silent guardian. Need to regain possession? He’ll win a tackle. Need to breakthrough? He’ll create a chance. Nevertheless, not even this veteran can keep doing what he does forever.
Just not entirely sure where that leaves Ceballos - but he won the penalty and then provided an assist to make it 2-0 from a left-wing role.
Perhaps Rodri is the one to take the torch. The deep-lying playmaker has adapted seamlessly at Manchester City. In certain aspects, he's Busquets' carbon copy.
Spain's midfield lacks one feature: goals. Then again, neither Xavi nor Andres Iniesta was prolific in that regard. Fortunately for Moreno, his current strikeforce is enough. Paco Alcacer has transferred his Borussia Dortmund scoring rush to the International level. A lethal striker like him scores nine times out of ten when given space to take aim. There’s also the industrious Rodrigo, still adapting into a new role but fully capable of finding the net.
On La Roja's wing, there are more young wonders. Mikel Oryazabal, 22, is packed with skills and clinical with his contribution. Dani Olmo has shone at youth level, scoring four goals in 11 U-21 appearances as well as claiming man-of-the-match in the European Championship final. The 21-year-old's not far from emerging as his nation's next fiery winger. Marco Asensio, 23, once recovering from his serious injury, has enough to rip defences apart.
In the Spanish defence, Sergio Ramos rules the roost as captain. Mario Hermoso, 24, and Diego Llorente will eventually step in to sure up the backline. Also, expect Kepa Arrizabalaga, 24, to oust David De Gea in goal permanently should the latter keep scuffing at Manchester United.
Owing to a new core, Spain's transition period has been extended. After witnessing their performance in the Euro 2020 qualifiers so far, it shouldn't be long before they reap the full rewards.