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.



Andoni Zubizarreta Valencia

Santiago Canizares Real Madrid

Jose Molina Atletico Madrid


Abelardo Barcelona

Miguel Angel Nadal Barcelona

Sergi Barcelona

Albert Ferrer Barcelona

Rafael Alkorta Real Madrid

Jorge Otero Valencia

Alberto Belsue Real Zaragoza


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


Julio Salinas Sporting Gijon

Kiko Atletico Madrid

Alfonso Real Betis

Juan Antonio Pizzi Tenerife

Jose Amavisca Real Madrid

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk