Spain counting on fresh faces for World Cup redemption
By Ed Dove
TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) - Spain are steadily turning to the next generation ahead of their Euro 2016 opener against the Czech Republic later on Monday as the defending champions look to redeem themselves after a miserable World Cup two years ago.
For Spain's disappointing showing in 2014, coach Vicente del Bosque retained 16 of the squad that won the title in 2010, but only eight winners remain for Euro 2016, with players such as Alvaro Morata, Hector Bellerin and Thiago Alcantara introduced as part of a significant changing of the guard.
Sergio Ramos is confident the new boys, five of whom were part of the 2013 European under 21-winning side, can lead Spain into a new golden era.
"People got used to us winning," he told reporters on Sunday, "and maybe we did too, we didn't value our achievements.
"This team can shine at the same level as before, or almost as much. The players may have less experience, but they've integrated well."
Morata, in particular, looks set to play a key role as the latest player to lead the line for del Bosque who has toyed with various striking options during his eight-year tenure.
Top scorer David Villa started at the 2010 World Cup, Fernando Torres scored in the victorious finals of both Euro 2008 and 2012 while Diego Costa was added to the team in 2014.
Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and Roberto Soldado were all given opportunities to prove that they could be the right man to adapt to Spain's distinctive playing style.
However, none of the aforementioned strikers have been included this time, with del Bosque naming Morata, Aritz Aduriz and Nolito, with Cesc Fabregas also an option to repeat his effective false nine role from Euro 2012.
"I think we had the best forwards in the country's history with Fernando, David and others," said Andres Iniesta, "but now it's different.
"We have new players like Alvaro and Aritz, and there's Cesc," he continued. "We have full confidence that they'll score goals at the critical moments."
Del Bosque is delighted with the squad's blend and has warned people to expect something a little different from the team that will face the Czech Republic in Toulouse.
"If you consider some of my past teams, it's not the same now," the coach said. "We have younger players and we have veterans. We have confidence in all of them."
(Editing by Martyn Herman)