Spain have been the most dominant international side in football in the new millennium, bar the recent German heroics at the 2014 World Cup. England, on the other hand, have been the most underwhelming side in Europe and continue to enter tournaments with huge hype but exiting without impact.
Spain became the first team in the world to win three major tournaments in a row as they snapped up the 2008 Euros, the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros. Meanwhile, England fans can only smile in reminiscence of their 1966 World Cup win, because things have just gone haywire since then with their national team crashing out of tournaments left and right and having reached only two semifinals in any major international tournament since 1990.
Even for Euro 2016, England go into the tournament as serious contenders, like they always have: like they did at the 2014 World Cup before crashing out in the group stages, like they did at Euro 2012, before their greatest villain — the penalty shoot-out — forced them out in the quarter finals. This time, they are entering the tournament on the back of an unbeaten run in the qualifying campaign, defeating such fearsome sides as San Marino, Estonia and Lithuania.
England will go into the match with an experimental side, according to The Mirror, that will feature promising youngsters Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, as Roy Hodgson puts Rooney on the bench. The Independent quotes Rooney admitting that it’ll be difficult for him to hold on to a starting position. Considering that Rooney has scored only twice in 12 league games for United, and taking into account the other options available to the England manager, that statement isn’t wide off the mark.
One striker who has been in scintillating form though is Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, who would have had a great opportunity to shine in this encounter had he not added himself to England’s long list of injured players that include Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Luke Shaw, although his seems to be more short term in nature compared to the others.
So England will have to depend on Harry Kane, who looks to have overcome his early season difficulties scoring 5 goals in his last 3 premier league games, while Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling, two highly rated young England players, will have the opportunity to impress on the wings for the national side.
England can also take solace from the fact that Spain hasn’t fared all that well in international competition since the last Euros, crashing out of the 2014 World Cup in the Group Stages and losing to France, Germany and the Netherlands over the past year. But in-form players like Juan Mata, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Alvaro Morata and Thiago Alcantara will make life difficult for the English team, while Manchester United’s prized possession, David De Gea, could start in goal and thwart England’s attack.
England go into the match with a superior win record against Spain, having won 13 of their encounters while Spain has won eight. The last time the two teams squared off, in November 2011, England pulled off an upset over the then reigning World Champions through a Frank Lampard goal.
The two European giants look to square off tonight and it could turn out to be a grim reality check for either side.