PETE JENSON: Spain’s Euro 2020 run leaves a nation feeling like they have a team to challenge again… Luis Enrique’s fledgling stars have big international futures ahead of them, and they will now target success in Qatar after coming close to glory
Former Spain coach and television summariser Jose Camacho summed it up for the losing semi-finalists. ‘We’re out but we have a team again’, he said after Jorginho had rolled in Italy’s winning penalty.
They didn’t think they had a team, certainly not one to go within penalty kicks of the final. But a young side emerged under the command of Luis Enrique and they go forward to the next World Cup with realistic hopes of winning in Qatar.
Pedri was in tears after the shoot-out. He will be the talisman from here on in. He played every minute, ran more than any other player, and will now win the Golden Boy award – a small consolation but he has plenty of time to lift trophies aged just 18.
A young Spain team has starred at Euro 2020 and left a nation feeling they can win trophies
Pedri (C), aged 18, will be Spain’s newest talisman from now on after his semi-final heartbreak
He is not the only player with a big international future ahead of him. Ferran Torres is only 21, Dani Olmo is 23, Eric Garcia is 20 and Pau Torres and Unai Simon just 24. They have many tournaments ahead of them and there were shades of Casillas and Andres Iniesta in the way Simon and Pedri played.
Luis Enrique said before the third group game that far from thinking of standing down he was considering extending his contract. If that was the way he felt after two tame draws in the group stage imagine how he feels now having taken the team right to the gates of glory.
He could do with finding a goalscorer. Spain dominated possession against all their rivals but while the goals came against Slovakia and Croatia they did not come against Switzerland and Italy.
A number of young players in the squad, such as Dani Olmo (C), have big futures ahead of them
Alvaro Morata (L) netted the leveller against Italy, but Spain could do with another goalscorer
Barcelona forward Ansu Fati could be the answer. He, like Pedri is only 18, and has always been prolific right up to the season before last when he broke through at the Camp Nou breaking records every time he played. He had terrible luck with injuries last season but if he can get fit again then he could be the final piece of the jigsaw.
Whatever happens, ‘we’re back’ was the battle cry as Spain players went to their 9,000 supporters at Wembley to thank them for their support. It was a very different story after the first two group games when spectators whistled and jeered Alvaro Morata after he missed a couple of chances.
Luis Enrique backed him and he backed his players to come good. They did not let their manager down. He changed the team every game and each time the tweak brought something new.
‘We’re back’ had been the battle cry from the 9,000-strong set of Spain supporters at full-time
Luis Enrique (second from left, top) backed his stars to impress, and they didn’t let him down
Against Italy he played Olmo at centre-forward and his aggression and energy gave Italy’s veteran centre-backs something different to deal with. They were expecting club team-mate Morata who came off the bench to get the all important equaliser.
‘We’ve lost but we’ve gained a great coach in Luis Enrique,’ said Marca. ‘Proud of Spain,’ tweeted Gerard Pique. ‘There was no better team in the tournament’.
Cesc Fabregas tweeted: ‘We’ll be back in 18 months’. Few can argue with that.
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