Skip to content

Time to take Spain off the Euro 2012 favorite’s perch

May 8, 2012, 10:23 PM EDT

FC Barcelona v Malaga CF - Liga BBVA Getty Images

A lot of people already had Germany or the Netherlands as their Euro 2012 favorites, but in international soccer, a lot of predictions fall back on the usual tropes. German pragmatism, brilliant Oranje – with similar aphorisms, some will pick Italy or France to claim this summer’s crown, statures their more measured coaches can’t envision for squads still in the middle of rebuild processes.

Spain was this summer’s favorite, though not overwhelmingly so. Two years after the claimed their first world title with the understated force of a father’s coercing hand on a seven-year-old’s shoulder, nobody had made a better claim to being the world’s best. Germany has reached the most difficult part of their current cycle, shifting from aspirations to expectations, while the Netherlands have never been as good as South Africa’s scrappy second place finish implied.

Today, however, everything changed. The same pithy doubts that undermine the German and Dutch profiles now apply doubly so to Spain. After all, the complaints against the former underdogs are more ethereal than substantial. Germany waiting for their Özil-Müller-lead kids to come good? That may be a matter of time. And qualms about the Netherlands’ underlying quality in South Africa? Well, they did finish second.

Having lost their best defender, Spain has a real, tangible hole, though some would disagree about the quality of Carles Puyol. With his proven ability to lock down opponents in big games, he’s still the first defender I’d want if I had one game to win. There’s a reason why Pep Guardiola often shook up his defense when facing Real Madrid, jumping through hoops to match Puyol opposite Cristiano Ronaldo whenever possible. Barcelona’s suicidally high line would be impossible to pull off without Puyol’s speed and intelligence, yet asked to name Puyol’s best qualities, most are more likely to mention his tenacity and physicality, the latter more of a hair-derived stereotype than something you see on a game-to-game basis.

The 34-year-old’s though to have lost a step, becoming more mistake prone. With almost any analysis of defenders, it’s easy to use isolated examples to draw different conclusions. With Puyol, however, complaints are usually drawn along the Real-Barça divide.

Even if Puyol has slipped, his value to Barcelona has not. Same with Spain. If he’s a waning talent, he’s still a relative titan for his two teams. His loss is debilitating no matter your opinion of his value. With questions surrounding Gerard Piqué’s quality (Puyol’s partner struggling through the last half of his club season), it’s unclear who will lead the Vicente de Bosque’s line June 10.

“It’s a serious setback,” Spain’s boss told AS after news of Puyol’s injury got out, “he’s a considerable loss not only for what he gives on the pitch, but for what he contributes to the team (off it).”

“Beyond the question of whether or not it effects my [tactical] plans, he is a charismatic and hugely important player who was on the verge of 100 caps. He was in great form. It’s a real pity.”

With David Villa’s status uncertain (the Barcelona striker recovering from a broken leg), Spain has major uncertainties both up top and at the back. Roberto Soldado and/or Fernando Llorente are expected to vie for spots in attack, while today’s defense looks something like (right-to-left) Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba.

Will that be good enough? Who knows, and that’s the point. With Puyol going down, there are just too many questions surrounding Spain to consider them Euro’s favorites.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Latest Posts
  1. Euro qualifying at its midpoint: Predicting the 19 automatic qualifiers

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT

    David Alaba AP

    The top two teams in each group will advance, while the best third-place side will also advance.

  2. On Jurgen Klinsmann and Michael Bradley and “playing out of position”

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:26 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    As bizarre as this is to read, Michael Bradley didn’t register a single helper for the States until 2011. In the Klinsmann era, he has 12.

  3. Altidore apologizes for red card woes: “Not the type of role model I want to be”

    Mar 31, 2015, 8:07 PM EDT

    FBL-SUI-USA-FRIENDLY Getty Images

    It was out of character for Altidore, who hadn’t received a red card for club or country since he was with AZ Alkmaar in 2012.

  4. Real Madrid lands $34 million Brazilian defender Danilo from Porto

    Mar 31, 2015, 7:17 PM EDT

    9c2fc3c2d0036f128d8501497dffd0ce Getty Images

    With the deal Porto have turned another big profit. See this incredible list below, as the Portuguese club giants have made close to $423 million.

  5. International roundup: No. 1 MLS pick posts first senior goal, Cape Verde upsets Portugal

    Mar 31, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT

    Cyle Larin Canada

    It was a busy couple days for friendlies outside of the draw between Switzerland and the USMNT, with some MLSers doing work in the mix.

  6. Spurs reach deal to buy disputed land for 56,000 seat stadium

    Mar 31, 2015, 5:27 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    Tottenham Hotspur could have new, improved digs as soon as the 2018-19 season, according to the BBC.

  7. Andros Townsend nets late equalizer as England draws Italy in Turin (video)

    Mar 31, 2015, 4:38 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-ITA-ENG-FRIENDLY Getty Images

    Though Wayne Rooney had a series of good chances including a struck crossbar, it was the Tottenham man who beat Gianluigi Buffon to tie things up.

  8. Mats Hummels: Leaving Dortmund “would only be to Manchester United”

    Mar 31, 2015, 3:47 PM EDT

    FBL-EURO-2016-GEORGIA-GERMANY Getty Images

    What would the price tag be for the German star if he skipped Dortmund for Old Trafford?

  9. Three things we learned from the USMNT’s late 1-1 draw in Switzerland

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    FBL-SUI-USA-FRIENDLY Getty Images

    Here are three points and a bonus reminder from the Yanks’ final match until April 15 in Texas against Mexico.

  10. Player ratings: Stars and flops for the USMNT in 1-1 draw at Switzerland

    Mar 31, 2015, 2:11 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Jurgen Klinsmann’s States again allowed a second-half goal, though this one feels much different than the previous friendly failures.

  11. Lineups out for USMNT vs. Switzerland: Williams, Morales, Shea come in; diamond in midfield

    Mar 31, 2015, 11:16 AM EDT

    Danny Williams 2

    Klinsmann makes changes to team who lost to Denmark, switches up formation.

  12. Three things to look out for as USA take on Switzerland

    Mar 31, 2015, 10:02 AM EDT

    Denmark Soccer USA

    Plenty of intriguing questions surrounding the USMNT picture ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Swiss.

  13. European clubs to share record $2.4 billion pot dished out by UEFA in new deal

    Mar 31, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    French UEFA president Michel Platini spe Getty Images

    Top European teams will get extra revenue from Champions League, Europa League from next season.

  14. USMNT vs Switzerland preview: Last time they met, Michael Bradley scored the winner with a full head of hair

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:07 PM EDT

    Switzerland v USA - International Friendly Getty Images

    Maurice Edu and Danny Szetela helped the goal get going, and Bradley was barely more than 20 years old.

Featured video

Week 30: Headline PL moment