Sevilla claim an emphatic third-consecutive Europa League title after Daniel Sturridge’s opener was cancelled out by a goal from Kevin Gameiro and victory sealed by a double from Coke.
What did you make of the game? Tweet your thoughts using #360fans.
Retweet & Share a Coke with a Liverpool fan.. pic.twitter.com/9RniFEVFAz— BenchWarmers (@BeWarmers) May 18, 2016
No denying Sevilla were the best team on the night. They were as good in the 2nd half as Liverpool were flat.— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) May 18, 2016
When he looks through the list of midfielders at his disposal, Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque must be almost embarrassed by the depth of talent he can call upon for this summer’s European Championships.
With Barcelona lynchpin Sergio Busquets a certain starter, Del Bosque is also blessed with gifted ball-players such as Thiago Alcantara, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas, all-rounders like Koke, Saul Niguez, Isco and Bruno Soriano, and incisive penetrators Pedro and Lucas Vazquez. Oh, and there’s also that guy who scored the World Cup winning goal in 2010 and has just captained Barcelona to yet another La Liga title, the incomparable Andres Iniesta.
Indeed, Del Bosque has so many brilliant midfielders available, he can afford to leave out a pair of experienced and trusted performers, in the form Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata, who would walk into most nation’s starting line-ups, never mind their squads. But when you look further forward, the talent dries up and it becomes apparent that Spain have a serious problem in the goalscoring department.
Del Bosque, who is expected to retire after the tournament, has only named two centre forwards in his provisional 25-man squad. And they are…wait for it…Alvaro Morata and Aritz Aduriz. One young player who is still developing and only managed seven league goals in 34 games this season, and a 35-year old who has only played 13 minutes of competitive international football. But Del Bosque didn’t really have much choice.
No better choices, anyway, because his other options were one-season wonder (okay, two-season wonder) Diego Costa, who has never looked comfortable at international level and is injured, and over-the-hill Fernando Torres who has enjoyed a purple patch with Atletico Madrid but can hardly be regarded as a world-class talent.
Leaving out Paco Alcacer was a somewhat strange move after he top scored during the qualification process and totalled a creditable 15 goals this season. But the Valencia man has desperately struggled for form in recent weeks, scoring in only two games since January, so can’t really feel too hard done by.
When you look more closely at Spain’s recent record, it becomes even clearer that they will struggle for goals this summer.
Even in a weak group containing the lightweights of Luxembourg, Belarus and Macedonia, they only averaged 2.3 goals per game during qualifying, scoring just once more than Scotland.
In friendlies against stronger opposition they have been even worse. In seven games since their World Cup exit, they have mustered just five goals, drawing blanks against France, Germany, the Netherlands and Romania.
Fortunately for Del Bosque, he can call upon an outstanding defence. Although their personal relationship could be better, the on-pitch pairing of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique is easily the best in the competition, with Juanfran and Jordi Alba offering strong support from full-back.
Thanks to their solid backline and their habitual domination of possession (it’s difficult to score when you can’t get the ball), Spain didn’t concede a single goal in their last eight qualifiers, and can prepare for their title defence confident of more clean sheets.
Considering their lack of striking talent, that’s just as well. A series of 1-0 wins is Del Bosque’s team’s most likely route to success.
With an action-packed week ahead in the football world, Mark Lomas, James Piercy and Alex Rea look ahead, with special guest appearances from Omar Othman and Keith Maisey of Manchester United and Crystal Palace’s UAE Supporters Club.
– Will Liverpool beat Sevilla to win the Europa League?
– Will assist king Mesut Ozil stay at Arsenal?
– Can Crystal Palace upset Manchester United in the FA Cup final?
All this and more in the latest episode of the Sport360 Football Podcast…