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Can Spain reign again at Euro 2012?

With the final round of qualifying matches for Euro 2012 on the horizon, now is an ideal time to take a look at the teams who are expected to make the biggest impact in Poland and Ukraine next summer.

The obvious starting point has to be the reigning European and World champions Spain. Vicente del Bosque's side have qualified with a faultless record and will travel to defend their title brimmed full of confidence.

The qualifying campaign has allowed the veteran Spanish manager to introduce a few new faces to his squad, and the fact that £50 million pound striker Fernando Torres is not an automatic choice shows that no player has a divine right to a place in the squad.

While there is no doubt that Spain will go into the tournament as favourites, it is worth raising the concern that they could be a touch over reliant on three particular players: Iniesta, Xavi and Villa. Obviously these are three players whose absence would be felt in any side, but the key fact here is that they are the heartbeat of this Spanish team.

Iniesta and Xavi set the tempo and pattern of the play, while Villa, his country's record goalscorer, is responsible for the vast majority of the team's goals. The trio have played a huge amount of football in the last five seasons and there has to be a worry that fatigue will start to play a part next summer. Xavi, for example, will be 32 by the time Euro 2012 gets underway and injuries have started to appear with a little more frequency of late.

History is also against the Spaniards. They joined West Germany (1972 and 1974), France (1998 and 2000) as World and European champions when they added the 2010 World Cup to their 2008 European Championship success. No country has yet been able to add a third successive tournament victory, although the French did come close to securing the hat-trick before they were beaten on penalties in the 2002 World Cup final.

Some will argue that history is there to be created and that records are there to be broken, but with some very classy sides in the shape of the Germans and the Dutch, only time will tell if the Spanish class of 2012 are the team that will break the mould.

By Anthony Sealey


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