Scotland v Spain: Youth at the heart of new cycle for La Roja

Spain opened their campaign with a 3-0 home win against Norway
Spain opened their campaign with a 3-0 home win against Norway
Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Tuesday, 28 March Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Scotland, live text on the BBC Sport website & app, highlights on BBC One Scotland

Spain are in Scotland for the first since the Euro 2012 qualifiers. In those days, they were one of the greatest international football teams that the world had seen.

When La Roja last took to the Hampden Park pitch in the autumn of 2010 they were not only European champions but, months earlier had won the World Cup for the first time with their dramatic extra-time victory over the Netherlands in Johannesburg.

Two wins over Craig Levein’s Scots helped them top the section before they went on to reclaim the European Championship title in Kyiv in 2012.

Under two Madrid footballing greats in the late Atletico legend Luis Aragones and then Real multiple title-winner Vicente Del Bosque, they had no weaknesses. Captain Iker Casillas was flanked by the likes of Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Ramos in defence, the graceful maestros of Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and David Silva ran rings round midfield opponents and then there was the potency of strikers David Villa and Fernando Torres. They were a winning machine.

One-by-one those behemoths stepped away from the main stage, laden with medals. Spain haven’t been able to come close to those halcyon days where they enjoyed six successive cycles as Fifa’s international team of the year between 2008-2013.

Their record at World Cup finals has been poor by their lofty standards, albeit outside of 2010, it is a tournament they have generally flattered to deceive in, infamously failing to get out of their group in Brazil as defending champions before exiting at the first knock-out hurdle in Russia and Qatar.

The Euros has always been a more successful venture for the Spanish and it took a penalty shoot-out defeat by eventual winners Italy at Wembley in the delayed 2020 finals to deny them a place in the showpiece.

‘Spectacular qualifying record’

And while the squad that has arrived in Glasgow has a very different look to even the one that contested the winter World Cup in the Middle East, it can still defeat any team on its day, as Norway found out in Malaga on match-day one in Group A.

But how the Norwegians will lament missed chances, in particular Real Sociedad’s Alexander Sorloth. They paid a heavy price as Joselu’s late double ensured victory. The Scots cannot afford to be similarly profligate if they are to have any chance of causing an upset.

The Spanish last failed to reach a major finals in 1992. That’s 15 successive qualifications and normally with a bit to spare. Seven defeats in a 146 qualifying group matches over the last three decades is a spectacular record.

Luis de la Fuente’s squad is less experienced than the group Steve Clarke has assembled for this opening double-header, 500 caps vs 385, as the recently-appointed Spanish coach ushers in a new era.

He has worked with most of the fresh faces with the under 21s for four years and it could be they who make the difference on Glasgow’s southside.

Ones to watch…

Barcelona teens Gavi and Alex Balde are in the Spain squad for Hampden
Barcelona teens Gavi and Alex Balde (right) are in the Spain squad for Hampden

Alex Balde

The Barcelona teenager is already a powerhouse with his club as he looks to make the left-back berth his own. However, he was exposed at times against Norway as he wants to attack just as much as he wants to defend. His place in the side for the game at Hampden may go to the more experienced Jose Gaya of Valencia, however Balde is a player who has a big future ahead of him.


Another Camp Nou teenage sensation, the 18-year-old burst onto the international scene in Qatar and has been compared to his club manager Xavi. Indeed, he wears his boss’s number six jersey in Catalonia, no pressure then.

Alvaro Morata

A more familiar name in this new-look squad, De la Fuente made him his captain. Morata took some time to win over the Spanish public, but he has answered the doubters with goals. The Atletico Madrid striker has scored 30 in his 62 caps and he is now fifth in the all-time scorer’s list for his country.

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