BARCELONA (Reuters) – An all-conquering Spain side were on the crest of a wave last time they faced Germany on the way to winning the 2010 World Cup but they now meet on Tuesday in what will be a stern test for a new fledgling team.
The indefatigable Carles Puyol scored the only goal in the semi-final in South Africa but he is now retired while other stalwarts of a golden team that also won Euro 2008 and 2012 such as Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa have also left La Roja.
Instead, coach Vicente del Bosque has put the building blocks in place for a new Spain side following the failure at the Brazil World Cup to progress from the group stage.
The team that will now take on Germany, who replaced them as world champions, in Vigo are not yet the finished article but there are positive signs. Many of the players coming through enjoyed success with Spain at youth level, including under-21 European champions in 2011 and 2013.
In Euro 2016 qualifying, they have are in second place with nine points from four games having lost to leaders Slovakia but there was plenty of sparkle as they beat Belarus 3-0 on Saturday.
“You have to be optimistic. It is difficult to have players again at the level of Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Villa or Fernando Torres but they will be ready soon,” Del Bosque told Spanish radio.
“I think we are close to achieving it. The players that we have are good and well taught. They are incredible. In some ways it is bad that players go abroad but at the same time they can make the squad richer with their experiences.
“The truth is that we have gone a lot of games without losing. We lost one game against Slovakia (in qualifying) in over 30 matches. The team is well balanced and against any team we will make it difficult for them.”
Koke, aged 22, was in the under-21 side that won the European championship in 2013 and now is an integral part of Del Bosque’s side having played more minutes than any other during Euro qualifying.
“There are six of us here that played that final,” Koke told reporters.
“It is fruit of the good work with the national team that practically all that reach the first team come through the different youth levels.”