As I was on the Spain bandwagon before it was even built, having picked them to win World Cup 2006, then picking them to win Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 as well, I feel obligated to get down on paper my honest thoughts that they will not win the Euros this year. Why?
1. No David Villa, their all time leading scorer. 2nd choice is Fernando Torres, a shell of his former self. Villa's clinical finishing will be missed
2. A few key players farther into their sunset years: i.e. Carles Puyol aka Slash from Guns N Roses.
3. Fatigue. The amount of matches played by the Spanish players, mainly the core Barcelona ones over the last few years is just stunning, and fatigue may affect this team more than any other.
Even with these weakesses Spain are still the best team, but if they make Spain 10% or even 5% from what they were in 2008 & 2010, then that may well be enough to get them knocked out. The margin between victory & defeat in these competitions is razor thin- remember that Spain only beat Paraguay on penalties at World Cup 2010- if the lottery of the shootout landed on the other side of the coin flip that it is, they would have been out at the quarterfinals in South Africa. For a team that specializes in 1-0 wins, a 10% dropoff may be enough to see them out.
The case for of course is the amazing collection of core talent remains, they still have the best goalkeeper in the world, and they have the experience and confidence in themselves to get it done in any situation, even if they lose their first match.
Let's also remember that if you are going to beat Spain, you pretty much have to score first to have a chance (or make it to penalties).
I still feel they will make the semifinals, but just have a hunch that they won't be able to finish it off and defend their title. I woudn't be surprised to see them not win this competition but be stronger at the World Cup 2012 (I don't think we have seen the end of Spain, just that this year might prove a bridge too far).
Of course, that is the analyst in me, not my heart. I'll still be pulling hard for them.
That said, I'm not sure who can/will beat them. Germany maybe, don't think Holland's defense can get them to the winners circle.
I do think that the surprise of the tournament will be France, who are still a laughingstock in the eyes of the world. But the team has been completely rebuilt and has quietly been very effective in the last 2 years, and I think they will surprise and make a run to the semifinals.
So lets guess a semifinals with Spain, Germany, Russia & France, and who knows from there. Sure hoping Spain get their treble, but I have a hunch someone is going to knock them out in the semifinals or final this time around.
If only we still had Paul the Octopus around to tell us what will happen. R.I.P.