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La Liga

Spain | Euro 2021: Spain go out in a blaze of optimism for the future

Luis Enrique‘s Spain saved their best until last, giving arguably the tournament’s best performance from any team in their semi-final defeat against Italy.

It wasn’t to be, however, with the Italians, who have been excellent throughout Euro 2020, just about keeping pace with them in a thrilling encounter and then securing passage to the final via a penalty shootout.

It was a harsh elimination for La Roja, who played the better football on the night, but one offset with a great deal of pride and optimism for the future. After all, this is a squad full of young talent who could be around the national team for years to come.

Of the team that started against Italy, only Jordi Alba, Koke, Cesar Azpilicueta and Sergio Busquets are over the age of 28. Six of the starting XI were under the age of 25.

In other words, the vast majority of this squad could remain together for many years to come. Even the elder statesmen – Alba and Busquets at 32 – should be available for the next World Cup and possibly the European Championship after that. Over half the 24-man squad will still be under 30 when Euro 2024 comes around.

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Spain began Euro 2020 without the sort of obvious star names we expect them to have, and the opening two games did little to alter the low expectations. Luis Enrique‘s side grew as the tournament progressed, however, and the semi-final was the culmination, suggesting that we may be witnessing the birth of a new, bright era for Spanish football.

Pedri: A new midfield magician

Barcelona midfielder Pedri has been one of the great revelations of the last season and at Euro 2020 his reputation has taken a further boost. It is incredible to think that he won’t turn 19 until November. Based on pure technical quality, he is arguably already the best player we have seen at the tournament.

If Pedri can continue to improve the sky really is the limit, but he is already a fantastic player. The main concern, and certainly one his club have, is that he isn’t overused and can avoid burnout in the coming months and years.

Fresh faces at the back

Aymeric Laporte, 27, has been a terrific addition to Spain‘s squad and Luis Enrique has spoken to his importance to the team. Alongside him, the coach has alternated between Eric Garcia, 20, and Pau Torres, 24.

The defence has had its shaky moments, but these players have a lot of quality and are crucial to the team’s passing style.

The experience of Sergio Ramos and Inigo Martinez might have been missed at times, but the future of Spain‘s central defence appears to be in good hands.

Olmo and Ferran come of age

Two players who had perhaps their best performances in a Spain jersey against Italy were Ferran Torres, 21, and Dani Olmo, 23.

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The attacking duo really came of age, displaying not just their skill but also intelligence and maturity.

Olmo, playing in a false nine role, had good chances to score and his performance deserved a goal. It was a shame to see him miss a penalty, but he’ll be back for more at future tournaments.

At a tournament in which Spain often lacked in the final third, the performances of Ferran and Olmo are a big factor in the newfound optimism for the coming years.

Mikel Oyarzabal, the other starting forward, didn’t have his best night, but the Real Sociedad man is only 24 himself and will learn from the experience. Getting in the right positions was a positive for him.

The ones who didn’t make it this time

Of course, La Roja‘s future is not limited to the players who made the list for Euro 2020.

One of the big hopes for Spain‘s future is Ansu Fati, and if the 18-year-old Barcelona winger can put his injury problems behind him and pick up where he left off, he will be an incredible player for the national team for many years.

There are also a number of players who came into Luis Enrique‘s consideration but didn’t quite make it this time, although they will no doubt get more chances in the future.

Bryan Gil, 20, is an excellent prospect and he will soon be representing Spain at the Olympics, along with a number of others who could play their part for the senior team in the near future.

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Players like Marc Cucurella (22), Mikel Merino (25), Marco Asensio (25), Martin Zubimendi (22), Yeremi Pino (18), Oscar Mingueza (22) and Brahim Diaz (21) are just some of those who will be hoping to make an impact on the senior team in the near future.

Spain‘s conveyor belt of talent certainly isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. If anything, the current batch have merely surprised us by reaching a semi-final ahead of schedule.

Continuing to balance youth and experience, as Luis Enrique has done at Euro 2020, will be key for Spain in the coming years, but these young players give plenty of reasons to believe the future is bright.

La Roja will be back and have plenty of reasons to be confident at the World Cup and beyond. Only next time, they may arrive with greater expectations.

You wouldn’t bet against this group living up to them, though, as they look to ensure that this semi-final won’t be their last.

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