The system is not just working, it's booming

Casillas warns that Spain's next generation has even more talent, writes Sam Wallace

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The Independent Online

The bad news for the rest of the world's elite international sides was that, even as the Spanish players were leaving the Olympic Stadium in Kiev as European champions on Sunday night, they were already discussing the prospect of going to Brazil in 2014 to win their fourth tournament in a row.

For the golden generation of Spanish football, winning has not just become a habit, it has become a fundamental part of the way in which they produce footballers. "I tell you something," Iker Casillas said on Sunday night, "in a couple of years there will be new players and, although it is true that we have a great Under-21s, you have to unite that group and make it work."

For the record, the Spanish Under-21s team are reigning European champions and won six out of six games in qualification for next summer's tournament in Israel. Spain's Under-19s won their European Championship in Romania last summer. Their Under-17s beat their English counterparts 4-0 in Georgia in March.

But it is not as if the current team are prepared to step away just yet. Xavi will be only 34 by the time 2014 comes around. Casillas will be a mere 33. Andres Iniesta will be 32, and is almost exactly two years younger than Steven Gerrard. But there is also a new generation, led by Cesc Fabregas, 25, pushing on behind them.

Fabregas made the point on Sunday that a significant part of the team that has won the last two tournaments is still in its early twenties. "Jordi Alba, he's played an amazing tournament, played an amazing game in the final, is only 23 years old, and this is the way we want the other players to keep going," he said.

"We have Sergio Busquets [23], Jordi Alba, myself, Gerard Pique [25]. We are between 23 and 25. It's a really [great] thing to perform at the top level at that age. "

It is a troubling thought for the teams who would seek to challenge Spain in two years' time that so many of them have potentially 10 more years left at the top. Winning the World Cup in Brazil would be a stupendous achievement, not only because it would complete the sequence of four for Spain but also because no European team has ever won in South America.

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