Monday, June 30, 2008

UEFA Euro 2008: Spain in 2010?

With the Euro 2008 trophy resting on their mantle, Spain now look ahead to the 2010 World Cup, where they will undoubtedly be among the favorites. The criticism of Spanish teams in the past never centered on the talent; it was always about the team's failure to deliver in big games. Now that that's been erased, Spain will be eyeing the world's biggest prize in South Africa.

With a wealth of young talent including Cesc Fabregas (21), Fernando Torres (24), David Villa (26) and Iker Casillas (27), Spain's triumph yesterday could be the start of a glorious run. But does a Euro championship ever serve as a springboard to a World Cup two years later? That's only happened once.

In 1972, West Germany claimed their first Euro title. It was the start of a golden era for Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Mueller and company. Germany went on to claim the 1974 World Cup on home soil, and Beckenbauer, Mueller and goaltender Sepp Maier led Bayern Munich to three-straight European Cups from 1974-1976. A shoot-out loss to Czechoslovakia in the Euro 1976 Final ended West Germany's bid for three-straight major titles.

Beyond that, however, it's been slim pickings. Italy (1968) and West Germany (1980) followed Euro victories with an appearance in the World Cup Final, but others have not fared as well. For an example of how it can all go wrong, take a look at the 1988/1990 Holland side. Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard were riding high after winning Euro 1988 and back-to-back European Cups with AC Milan in 1989 and 1990. They entered the 1990 World Cup in Italy among the favorites, but in-fighting among the Dutch side (the type that has reportedly plagued previously Spanish squads) resulted in an awful tournament. Holland scored only two goals in drawing all three group stage games, before bowing out 2-1 to eventual champions West Germany in the round of 16.

So Spain have some work ahead of them. No side has ever followed up the Euros by winning a World Cup outside of their homeland. But the talent is certainly there for Spain to make more history in two years time.

No comments: