Defending champions and tournament favorites Spain secured qualification for Euro 2012 with two games to spare.
Vicente Del Bosque’s men eased through a straightforward group containing Czech Republic, Scotland, Lithuania and Liechtenstein, winning each of their eight games in the process.
Their tiki-taka playing style continues to have the critics purring. No player more embodies that style of play than Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez who has made a career out of short passing interchanges with team-mates as he looks to work opponents out of position. To use a cliché, Spain let the ball do the work and it remains beautiful to watch.
Spain’s biggest enemies may just be themselves. While a 1-0 friendly defeat to England and a 2-2 draw against Costa Rica were not on the same level as the post 2010 World Cup thrashings by Portugal (4-0) and Argentina (4-1), they did hint at complacency setting in. But these were not important games and when it matters, Spain’s record has been exemplary, as they have won 14 consecutive competitive matches (a joint world record).
However, there have also been suggestions that the fierce club rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid could be an undermining factor. The Spain squad is heavily populated by players from these two clubs and the sight of international team-mates lunging in on each other and exchanging insults in the clasicos will be a worry to Del Bosque.
The absence through injury of Barcelona duo Carles Puyol and David Villa, both key to the Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 triumphs, is also a blow.