3 days to go until it all kicks off and my money is on Spain. They are the bookies second favourites behind Germany and current odds set them at around 5-1 to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy come Sunday 29th June.
But my reasons for backing Spain are a more sentimental than analytical. In the summer of 1986 when I was a wee, skinny boy a guest visiting from Spain brought with her a replica Spanish football kit. I had only recently discovered football, being taken to see Big Ron’s Man Utd scrap a draw at Nottingham Forest and spent what seemed like the whole summer collecting Panini Mexico 86 stickers . Whenever Spain played I cheered them and was royally gutted when they lost to Belgium on penalties in the Quarter Final. Thus started a lifetime of supporting the perennial underachievers (a term that was seemingly coined for the Spanish national team), most painful of which probably being the Quarter Final loss to England on penalties.
Anyways, this year I have a feeling that they might just do it. They are possibly a bit shaky at the back but have some really useful attacking players and for the first time, a range of players that have experience in playing outside Spain. The Spanish are a fiercely loyal and patriotic side and it has historically been rare for Spanish players to ply their trade away from home, with players like Zubizarreta Butragueño Luis Enrique and Raul all playing in Spanish teams. Those that had ventured abroad have either enjoyed limited success (Morientes ) or done so in the twilight of their career (Hierro ) so it is great to see a stock of young players – in Reina , Fabregas and Torres – who have enjoyed success abroad.
So time to dispell the bad memories and 44 years of hurt.