After the Euro, Spain go for Olympic gold

2012-07-04 11:04

Madrid – After attaining an unprecedented third major title in succession, Spanish football is all set for its next challenge: the search for Olympic gold in London 2012.

Spain’s Olympic team coach Luis Milla called a preliminary squad of 22, which features European champions Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez and Juan Mata.

“Every footballer wants to come,” Milla told a press conference when asked about Alba.

Alba (23) who has just joined Barcelona from Valencia, played throughout all six of Spain’s matches at the Euro 2012, and scored the second goal in the 4-0 destruction of Italy in Sunday’s final in Kiev.

He was one of the stars of the Spain team despite being a newcomer to a major tournament, while Martinez and Mata, both of them world champions with Spain, played a lesser role with the senior team at the Euro. The three are set to join the squad on July 14, after a brief holiday.

“They are an example for younger players,” Milla said of them.

Spain did not even qualify for Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Now, however, they will seek to add the Olympic gold to the impressive treble they accumulated through winning the Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euro.

Spain already won the gold at home in Barcelona 1992, and they got an Olympic silver medal in Sydney 2000.

With the squad that Milla unveiled Tuesday, two things are clear: they are clearly among the great favourites for the title, and there is plenty more quality football where Spain’s senior champions came from.

There are no representatives from Real Madrid, while there are four each from Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona, with Manchester United’s David de Gea as the first-choice keeper and Atletico Madrid striker Adrian as a major attacking reference.

“The basis is continuity for an idea and a group of players. This is the best possible squad considering the rivals we will have,” said Milla, who warned against overconfidence. “If we go thinking that we are the favourites, that’s a bad start.”

Milla is concerned with euphoria around the team, a wave of expectation that grew in recent days following the Euro.

However, the coach should know full well how to manage that self-assuredness after all his triumphs with Spain’s youth teams.

Milla has already led Spain to an Under-19 gold in the 2009 Mediterranean Games, a silver in the 2010 Under-19 European Championships and a gold in last year’s Under-21 European Championships.

In London 2012, Spain are set to play Japan, Honduras and Morocco in Group D in the first round of the Olympic tournament.

They are to make their debut against Japan on July 26 in Glasgow’s Hampden Park.

If they go through to the quarterfinals, they would face a rival from Group C, which holds Brazil, Egypt, Belarus and New Zealand.

“We should not ask this team to be at the level of the senior team. It is not the same,” Milla warned.

However, he can hardly deny that they are trying to match the grown-ups, with a similar philosophy based on pass-based play.

“We want to play with similar situations, given the footballers’ profiles. But it is not fair to put pressure on (the Olympic team),” Milla said.

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