The Back of the Net team continue their build-up to Euro 2012 with individual team profiles. Here, television mirth merchant Mark Watson casts an eye over the World and European champions, SpainÃ¢ÂÂ¦
Until 2008, Spain were famous under-achievers at major tournaments, leading commentators to remark that 'you never knew which Spain would turn upÃ¢ÂÂ. Even when they hosted the World Cup in 1982, the Spanish were famously under-prepared; other countries arriving for the opening ceremony were startled to find the whole country still in bed and muttering something about Ã¢ÂÂhelping yourself to coffee or whateverÃ¢ÂÂ. At Euro 96 Spain sent a Subbuteo team in place of their human equivalents, but still reached the quarter-finals and may have progressed even further had three of their players not been crushed to death by Mum while she was tidying up.
The golden ageAll this changed dramatically in 2008, when Spain became European Champions. Two years later they went one better and won the World Cup, despite losing their opening game to Switzerland because their netball team turned up by mistake. The Spanish held their nerve in a brutal final which saw nine of the opposing Dutch team dismissed and three held in custody after attempting to kill keeper Iker Casillas and dump his body in the woods. Now on seemingly unstoppable form, Spain went on to win Europe in Bloom with a sensational display of crocuses, and President Jose Luis Zapatero destroyed his counterparts Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Julia Gillard to win the G8 Hungry Hippos Championship in Qatar, dropping only three out of 20 balls in a one-sided final.
CriticismThough SpainÃ¢ÂÂs eye-pleasing Ã¢ÂÂtiki-takaÃ¢ÂÂ style has attracted much praise, they have still had their critics. Several leading analysts have claimed that SpainÃ¢ÂÂs possession football owes its success to the fact that they regularly field 12 players, getting away with it because XaviÃ¢ÂÂs single name does not show up on UEFAÃ¢ÂÂs computer system. These experts point to BrazilÃ¢ÂÂs successful exploitation of a similar loophole in 1994, when satellite evidence shows they played 13 men in the final by writing Bebeto and RomarioÃ¢ÂÂs names really small on the back of the teamsheet.
Road to the finalsAfter their spell of almost total domination, other countries are now loath to play Spain, and they enjoyed a free passage to Euro 2012 as UEFA ruled that there was Ã¢ÂÂnot a lot of point of them dicking about going to Azerbaijan and so on.Ã¢ÂÂ Manager Vicente del Bosque has not even called a training session for over a year, leaving players Ã¢ÂÂfree to pursue their own interestsÃ¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂfind a world away from soccerÃ¢ÂÂ. One source close to the camp claims that Andres Iniesta has spent the past months working on a bold new opera, which he plans to unveil for the first time as the Spanish ease past Croatia.
Will they win it?Yes.
More from Back of the NetGroup A: Poland Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Russia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Greece Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Czech RepublicGroup B: Netherlands Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Germany Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Portugal Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Denmark Group C: Spain Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Italy Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Croatia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Republic of Ireland Group D: Ukraine Ã¢ÂÂ¢ England Ã¢ÂÂ¢ France Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Sweden