CHAMPIONSHIP COUNTDOWN: No 1 Spain; Clemente a unifying force

Spain are the perpetual under-achievers of European and world football. They invariably qualify for the finals of major tournaments, often threaten to go all the way and usually fail to live up to expectations. This time, things could be different.

Only twice, when they won the old European Nations Cup in 1964 and when they lost the final 20 years later, has Spain's performance lived up to the potential suggested by the depth of the country's domestic football. Yet, to outsiders, international success seemed a logical extension of the exploits of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Their rivalry, a manifestation of bitter political and cultural differences, almost certainly undermined footballing unity during the Franco era. While democratic Spain is not quite a rainbow nation, regional resentments are no longer as divisive. Both clubs have five players in the squad for the finals which, incidentally, is managed by a Basque.

Javier Clemente took over in 1992, sporting a CV that included the obligatory (brief) stint as Jesus Gil's coach at Atletico Madrid and the feat of taking Barcelona's "other" club, Espanol, to the Uefa Cup final. Clemente may have been excused for thinking that, after that lot, Spain would be a doddle.

There were moments in the United States two years ago when his tactical and organisational nous (critics call it dourness), allied to a dash of Latin flair, looked capable of taking Spain into the World Cup's last four at least. They held the initiative after equalising against Italy in the quarter-final but, true to character, blew out two minutes from time.

Two-thirds of the '94 squad will be in England, including Andoni Zubizarreta, once Terry Venables' keeper at Barcelona. A veteran of three World Cups, he was ever-present in a qualifying campaign which brought Spain eight wins, two draws and the distinction, shared with France and Russia, of remaining unbeaten. Given that the group included Denmark and Belgium, it was a significant feat.

Clemente sets great store by versatility. Jose Luis Caminero, who has slotted in seamlessly all over and netted twice against Bolivia in the US, is a favourite. The flip side of that coin is that they have no specialist finisher in the class of, say, Stoichkov or Raducoiu, strikers familiar from the Spanish game and lying in wait with Bulgaria and Romania respectively.

Of the 14 players who shared 25 goals in qualifying, Fernando Hierro's modest tally of four from midfield made him top scorer. The onus is on Juan Antonio Pizzi to improve on that as a lone front-runner. Alternatively, Clemente can call on Julio Salinas, a target man who also has three World Cups behind him.

The choice of Salinas, nearly 34 and past his best, is typical of the coach's contempt for press or public opinion. Likewise the omission of two teenaged wonders, Raul Gonzalez and Ivan de la Pena, who will instead be defending Spain's Olympic title. Nevertheless, a summer double is by no means out of the question.

SQUAD

Goalkeepers

Andoni Zubizarreta Valencia

Santiago Canizares Real Madrid

Jose Molina Atletico Madrid

Defenders

Abelardo Barcelona

Miguel Angel Nadal Barcelona

Sergi Barcelona

Albert Ferrer Barcelona

Rafael Alkorta Real Madrid

Jorge Otero Valencia

Alberto Belsue Real Zaragoza

Midfielders

Guillermo Amor Barcelona

Donato Deportivo La Coruna

Javier Manjarin Deportivo La Coruna

Fernando Hierro Real Madrid

Luis Enrique Real Madrid

Jose Luis Caminero Atletico Madrid

Julen Guerrero Athletic Bilbao

Forwards

Julio Salinas Sporting Gijon

Kiko Atletico Madrid

Alfonso Real Betis

Juan Antonio Pizzi Tenerife

Jose Amavisca Real Madrid

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Polish Speaking Buying Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Superb opportunity for a BUYING...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...

Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project