Team preview: Yamal, Rodri key to Spain championship charge at Euro 2024

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⚽ Spain – Key Euros Stats ⚽

Euro appearances: 11
Euro titles: 3
Best finish: Winners (1964, 2008, 2012)
Euros record: W21 D15 L10
Goals scored: 68
Biggest win: 5-0 (vs Slovakia at Euro 2020)
Player to watch: Lamine Yamal
World ranking: 8th
Group fixtures:

  • 15 June: Spain vs Croatia (Olympiastadion, Berlin, 6pm local/16:00 GMT)
  • 20 June: Spain vs Italy (Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen, 9pm local/19:00 GMT)
  • 24 June: Albania vs Spain (Dusseldorf Arena, Dusseldorf, 9pm local/19:00 GMT)

How to follow our Euro 2024 coverage: UEFA Euro 2024 on Al Jazeera

The meekness of Spain’s dramatic exit from the 2022 Qatar World Cup has overshadowed what’s been a relatively successful period for the star-studded team.

Spain reached the semifinals of Euro 2020, where they were knocked out on penalties by eventual champions Italy.

In June 2023, they won the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Nations League – their first title since the team’s memorable Euro 2012 triumph.

The Nations League victory was significant for three main reasons.

First, beating Croatia in the final on penalties exorcised the demons of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, where Spain shockingly failed to score a single penalty in their round of 16 exit to Morocco.

Second, there were huge volts of confidence from a late win over Italy in the Nations League semifinal and beating Italy and Croatia, both of whom are in the same Euro 2024 group as Spain.

Third, new Spain manager Luis de la Fuente getting a taste of silverware early into his reign ensured buy-in from his players as they head into Euro 2024.

Football manager speaks to player during match.New Spain coach Luis de la Fuente is leaning on young players like Lamine Yamal to perform at Euro 2024 [Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters]

Smells like teen spirit

De la Fuente is no stranger to success with the national team.

He won the Euros with the Spanish Under-19 and Under-23 teams and was in charge of the national side that won a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

So, it comes as no surprise that the squad he’s picked for Euro 2024 is young and hungry for success.

Barcelona teenager Lamine Yamal, 16, has made the cut while fellow La Masia graduate Fermin Lopez, 21, has earned his first call-up to the national side.

Twenty-one-year-olds Pedri and Nico Williams also feature in De la Fuente’s 26-man squad.

Yamal is almost certain to start for Spain at Euro 2024 and in doing so, he’ll become the youngest-ever player to make an appearance at the European championship.

The sublimely talented winger has already set a list of extraordinary records in his young career: youngest scorer for his club team Barcelona, youngest scorer in LaLiga history and youngest scorer for the Spanish national team.

While Yamal is the main attraction in this Spain side, its most important player is Manchester City star, Rodri.

The 27-year-old defensive midfielder has emerged as the de facto leader of the national side.

His partnership in the midfield with Real Sociedad’s Martin Zubimendi – a duo De la Fuente dubbed the “best midfielders in the world in their position” – will be key to Spain’s chances at the Euros.

Villarreal’s Alex Baena, who has the most assists in the LaLiga this season, and Aleix Garcia, a key member in Girona’s Champions League qualifying campaign, are other sound options for De la Fuente to call upon in midfield.

Football player strikes ball during a match.Defensive midfielder Rodri is Spain’s on-pitch leader [Juan Medina/Reuters]

One step forward, one step back

Center forward is an area of concern for Spain.

Alvaro Morata will lead the line in Germany, but the Atletico Madrid forward’s form has tailed off after a strong start to the season. He has scored just twice since the start of March.

Joselu has managed a respectable 17 goals for Real Madrid this season, including a stunning brace against Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinal, but he’s far from being a bankable option in international match play.

Given the makeup of the Spain squad, which along with being youth heavy also includes seven players above the age of 30, it’s tough to predict which way their campaign will swing.

Entering Euro 2024 in Germany as a near-unknown entity under a new manager making his major tournament debut could end up working in Spain’s favour.

⚽ Spain’s final squad for Euro 2024 ⚽

Captain: Alvaro Morata

Goalkeepers: Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad), David Raya (Arsenal), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Aymeric Laporte (Al-Nassr), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad), Dani Vivian (Athletic Bilbao), Alex Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc Cucurella (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Rodrigo (Manchester City), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Fabian Ruiz (Paris St Germain), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Pedri (Barcelona), Alex Baena (Villarreal), Fermin Lopez (Barcelona)

Forwards: Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Joselu (Real Madrid), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Ayoze Perez (Real Betis), Ferran Torres (Barcelona), Lamine Yamal (Barcelona)

You can follow the action on Al Jazeera’s dedicated Euro 2024 tournament page with all the match build-up and live text commentary, and keep up to date with group standings and real-time match results and schedules.

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