A shaky European campaign came to a catastrophic end for Spain as they bowed out in the Round of 16 to a tactically adept Italian side. Much like their previous World Cup run, Vincente Del Bosque’s men exited the tournament before many predicted.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil spelled the beginning of the end for La Furia Roja. A Spanish side on the back of two Euro triumphs and a memorable World Cup victory in South Africa were decimated by Netherlands and Chile. Failure to make it past the group stage, caused a number of fingers to be pointed on Del Bosque. Yet, to the amusement of many, the Spanish coach managed to hold on to his seat.
Despite topping their qualifying group, Spain fell short in friendlies against Germany, France and Netherlands. In December 2015, Del Bosque had announced that Euro 2016 would be the final chapter of his managerial career.
Seven months on, his Spanish side took centre stage in Toulouse against the Czech Republic at the Euros. It was a highly uncharacteristic 1-0 victory for the Spanish side, courtesy of a late Gerard Pique strike. In the second game, La Furia Roja looked as if they were back to their flying best. Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas executed their midfield roles without any hassle, while striker Alvaro Morata netted a brace in his side’s 3-0 domination over Turkey.
Their third group game was a tricky bet. An undefeated Croatian side took on Spain with both teams fighting for top spot in Group C. Morata gave his side the best possible start by scoring in the 7th minute but Croatia equalized through Nikola Kalinic on the stroke of half-time. In the 87th minute, Ivan Perisic added a second, which capped off a memorable victory in Croatian football history.
Spain went into the Round-of-16 clash against Italy as favourites, but just moments into the game, it felt like the Azzurri were the stronger side. Del Bosque’s team hardly got into the game, as Antonio Conte’s astuteness saw the Italians give nothing away. They made it hard for the opposition to find a way through, and whilst defending solidly, they managed to score two goals. Spain ended up losing by a 2-0 scoreline and the Spanish coach bid an unceremonious farewell to what was a successful stint with the national side.
This is how the Spanish players fared in France:
David De Gea: 6
David de Gea was picked as Del Bosque’s number one goalkeeper in France ahead of veteran Iker Casillas. The 24-year-old Manchester United keeper made a solid start to the tournament with two clean sheets in as many games. His real test came in the third game and disappointingly, he failed to live up to his billing. De Gea could have done better with Perisic’s 87th-minute effort that skimmed past his near post.
In the game against Italy, the Manchester United stopper made a number of fascinating saves, but his distribution came under tremendous scrutiny. His failure to play short passes to the back four pushed him to unnecessarily clear his lines on a number of occasions. Due to this, Spain failed to keep possession and were unable to build from the back.
Picked as the first-choice right back, the Atletico Madrid player rarely put a foot wrong. He was good defensively and was equally impressive going forward. He provided much-needed width to the Spanish side and delivered some pin-point crosses into the opposition penalty area.
Gerard Pique: 6.5
Much like the entire Spanish side, Barcelona defender Pique was outstanding in the first couple of games, keeping two clean sheets and also scoring a goal in the bargain. However, against Croatia and Italy, he looked far from his usual self and often took his eye off the ball. An average tournament for the Barcelona defender.
Sergio Ramos: 5
Pique’s defensive partner Sergio Ramos did not have the best of times in France. His careless defending often gifted the opposition opportunities to win back the ball. Ramos often found himself making unnecessary challenges that raised questions about his ability to captain a side. A missed penalty against Croatia did little to help his case.
Jordi Alba: 6
In contrast to Jordi Alba’s previous European campaign, the 2016 edition was a quieter one. The Barcelona left-back was rarely called upon defensively and his major contribution came on the offensive end. Alba, much like Juanfran, played as a flying winger, playing crosses into the box.
Cesc Fabregas: 7.5
Fabregas was efficient with his distribution throughout the tournament and seemed to be at home playing on the right side of a midfield trio. His link-up play with Alvaro Morata and David Silva was exceptional. The Chelsea midfielder was solid throughout the course of the tournament and was one of the few shining stars in the Spanish setup.
Sergio Busquets: 6
Sergio Busquets provided a decent defensive cover for Spain, but could hardly dictate his authority in the middle of the park. In the game against Croatia, he was often bullied by his Barcelona teammate Ivan Rakitic, and more often than not, the Croatian got the better of Busquets.
Andres Inietsa: 8
Spain’s evergreen machine Andres Iniesta had yet another incredible tournament for the Spanish national side. He was constantly at the periphery of everything that was happening inside the opposition area. He played on the left side of a midfield three and was arguably Spain’s best player at Euro 2016. Iniesta’s lofted pass to Pique for the goal against the Czech Republic was a highlight of the midfielder’s awareness and ability to spell danger.
David Silva: 6.5
The Manchester City attacker quietly went on about his things in France. Silva may not have scored or assisted, but his influence on the game did not go unnoticed. He kept feeding the ball to Alvaro Morata and at times combined well with Juanfran.
Playing to the left of striker Morata, Nolito combined well with the former Juventus player. Their link-up play at times was palpable. The Celta Vigo attacker scored his only goal of the tournament in the 3-0 demolition of Turkey.
Alvaro Morata: 8
The speculation regarding Alvaro Morata’s club future off the field has hardly seemed to affect his performances on it, as he managed to end the tournament as Spain’s leading goal scorer with 3 strikes. He proved to be a constant threat to opposition defences and executed the number nine role to near perfection.
Cesar Azipilicueta: 4
The Chelsea defender made just a solitary substitute appearance for La Furia Roja as Del Bosque went with the same XI for all the four games.
Bruno Soriano: 5
The 32-year-old Villarreal midfielder made two appearances at Euro 2016. In both his games, he featured for a relatively short amount of time and failed to influence the proceedings.
Koke came on at half-time against the Czech Republic and did not feature after that. Despite being on the back of a fantastic season with Atletico, the midfielder was overlooked.
Thiago Alcantara: 4.5
Another player who had tremendous form going into the tournament failed to be a part of Del Bosque’s first team plans and was restricted to just two substitute appearances.
The Chelsea winger was reportedly infuriated by the head coach’s reluctance to play him on a regular basis. When played, Pedro seemed to lack the zest needed to turn things around for Spain.
Aritz Aduriz: 6
Aduriz was a reliable option from the bench for Spain as he brought in a lot of sharpness to the side. He also managed to score his first international goal at the age of 35.
Lucas Vazquez: 2
The Real Madrid starlet came on for the final few minutes against Italy, hoping to score an equalizer, but failed in his efforts to do so.