Spain’s Often Overlooked Defense is Thriving at Euro 2016 

We look like a very offensive team but we have a very well organized structure in the back: Gerard Pique

Published21 Jun 2016, 10:20 AM IST
Sports
2 min read

Spain’s often overlooked defence still has an important role to play at the European Championship.

The offence and its unique possession game gets most of the credit for the team’s success, but the defence carries the load so talented midfielders can impress up front.

Spain enters Tuesday’s final Group D game against Croatia trying to defend a 14-game unbeaten run at the European Championship. It is also on a seven-game, no goal conceded streak, which goes back to its opening match in the 2012 tournament.

The defence helped by scoring an important goal in the opening match against the Czech Republic, when central defender Gerard Pique came through with a late header after strikers had struggled to find the net.

We look like a very offensive team but we have a very well organized structure in the back. We have very good players who have allowed us to keep playing at this high level in the last few tournaments, with the exception of the World Cup in Brazil.
Gerard Pique, Spanish Defender 

Spain hasn’t been defeated in the European Championship since a 1-0 loss to Portugal in the 2004 tournament. The last time it conceded a goal was in a 1-1 draw with Italy in its first match in 2012. It has gone 689 minutes without conceding a goal, which is the tournament’s longest run ever.

We have been playing at a very high level on defense. It’s important we continue like this because it gives more confidence to the players up front. It gives them more freedom to create plays on offense.
Cezar Azpilicueta, Spanish full back

Pique and Sergio Ramos have been at the forefront of the Spanish defence for the past several years. Both were in the team that won Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup. Spain conceded only one goal in 2012 and two at the World Cup in South Africa two years earlier.

Ramos, the team’s captain, was also in the squad that won Euro 2008, although he played as a right back in a team that had Carlos Puyol and Carlos Marchena in the middle of the defense.

In France, Juanfran Torres is playing right back and Jordi Alba is at left back. Alba said:

Ramos is a reference to us both on and off the field. He is an example to us all.

In Spain’s 3-0 win over Turkey last week, Ramos became the field player with the most appearances with the Spanish national team, with 134.

Club soccer rivals, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique (Photo: AP)
Club soccer rivals, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique (Photo: AP)

The Ramos-Pique Rivalry

Ramos and Pique are old rivals from club soccer in Spain. Ramos plays for Real Madrid and Pique for Barcelona, but they have bonded to try and overcome the debacle of the 2014 World Cup. The defenders were starters when Spain failed to advance past the group stage after conceding seven goals in three games, including five in the opener against the Netherlands.

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