Well, at long last, it’s finished.
And what a way to go out on a high note.
Italy and England met in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday night.
(Italy triumphed on penalties, but you already knew that.) On Saturday, Argentina defeated Brazil in the Copa America final at the Maracana.
It’s difficult to imagine any finer finals or stages to conclude these competitions with a crescendo before the curtain eventually falls, leaving us to go off and forget about it all for a while — although a Maracana with just 6,500 supporters in a stadium that sits over 80,000 did feel empty — to close these championships with a crescendo before the curtain finally falls, leaving us to go off and forget about it all for a while.
Of course, there are all those transfers that will not take place.
Real Madrid has already returned to training.
Atletico Madrid is as well.
Barcelona is as well.
At least some of their players are — largely the ones you’ve never heard of.
Meanwhile, a slew of players you’ve heard of — more than you’d expect to see in a team like this — are training in Benidorm, just down the coast from Barcelona.
They are, however, not so much back in training as they were never out of it.
They boarded a aircraft to Kobe, Japan, on Monday morning.
When they arrived at the airport, they were greeted by six other footballers who would accompany them on their adventure.
You’ve probably heard of them as well.
You’ve been following them for the past month, and it hasn’t been long since they were in a European semifinal.
After moving from Kobe to Sapporo on July 21, goalkeeper Unai Simon, defenders Eric Garcia and Pau Torres, midfielders Pedri and Dani Olmo, striker Mikel Oyarzabal, and the rest of the Spanish Olympic team will begin their quest for gold on July 21.
There are no promises of success, but Spain’s coach Luis de la Fuente, who is also the Spanish under-21 coach, embraces his country’s status as favorites in the 16-team men’s competition.
Spain will be placed in a group with Egypt, Argentina, and Australia to begin the tournament.
That’s not totally shocking, given the side he’s on.
Football teams at the Olympics are limited to U23s plus three overage players.
In Spain’s case, that means Oscar Mingueza, Marc Cucurella, Martin Zubimendi, Marco Asensio, Mikel Merino, Carlos Soler, Dani Ceballos, Bryan Gil, and Rafa Mir are among the players on the squad, which is roughly modeled on the team that won the U21 Europeans in 2019.
Pedri was a standout performer for Spain at Euro 2020, and he’ll be competing for Olympic gold right away.
Barcelona is dissatisfied.
It’s a formidable team, and it could have been even better. UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images
De la Fuente said that putting together this team was the most difficult he’d ever had to do.
It was, moreover, the most difficult to construct.
He had intended to call up players like Rodrigo Moreno, Ferran Torres, and Fabian Ruiz, among others.
Olmo was the only foreign-based player whose club (RB Leipzig) consented to release him in the end.
Some Spanish clubs did not want to relinquish their players, but they were unable to do so.
When it comes to Pedri, another club’s insignia versus.
Barcelona is enraged by the country’s conflict.
They’ve tried to persuade the Spanish football federation to exclude him, but they’ve refused.
They will, nevertheless, try to defend him.
At the Olympics, the player who missed just one minute — yes, one — at the Euros while running more kilometers than anyone else will miss a lot more.
Pedri appeared in well over 60 games last season.
He played 70 games between July 8, 2020, when he was away at Real Oviedo, and July 7, 2021, when he was at Wembley against Italy.
There hasn’t been a break in the cycle — it’s only been a week — and it’s never ending.
For the most part, there hasn’t been much of a break.
On June 3, Spain was eliminated from the U21 Europeans semifinals by Portugal.
They were swiftly gathered at Las Rozas three days later, ready to replace Spain’s official European Championships squad, which had been shut down following Sergio Busquets’ COVID-19 positive test on the night of the championship.
The federation personnel had spent the night, like a Sunday league squad, furiously calling footballers to assemble a team.
Several of them were already on vacation and needed to go back to Madrid as soon as possible.
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The gang had reformed in “record time,” according to de la Fuente.
On a night when 16 players made their official debuts for Spain, the U21s defeated Lithuania 4-0 in what should have been the senior team’s final warm-up game.
They subsequently stayed at Spain’s Las Rozas HQ, where they were joined by six veteran players who had been drafted in as a matter of urgency, and acted as a backup unit in case the Euro squad suffered a full-fledged outbreak.
They were eventually gratefully discharged the morning before Spain’s match against Sweden, and they were given a guard of respect on their way out.
Seven members of the U21 team have been selected for the Olympic team.
Soler, who was drafted into the “parallel Euros” squad, is one of them.
Then there are the six players who competed in the Europeans.
There are a total of 14 players that haven’t stopped, or at least not in the way they should have.
They planned to fly around July 11 in order to give the European players the opportunity to travel with them.
The departure was postponed to allow for a possible final at Wembley, as the six players who were “doing a double” wanted to not only compete in both events, but also win both.
“We haven’t had time to think about everything that’s going on,” de la Fuente explained.
Spain performed admirably in reaching the Euros semifinals, but the longer-term goal is to continue doing so for a generation — and to win again.
Getty One notion keeps coming to mind: this is a very, very powerful team.
On paper, no other team can really compete with them, but as Osasuna midfielder Jon Moncayola argues, “We’re one of the favorites, but we’ll have to see how we adapt to the weather and the humidity.” They’ll also be playing in front of closed doors after the decision was taken — amid a developing coronavirus problem in Japan — to have no spectators at any of the sports, destroying the competition.
Even if it isn’t the same, the opportunity is still there.
“This has the potential to be historic,” de la Fuente says.
It might also be a stepping stone toward something bigger, such as the World Cup in Qatar in November 2022.
The fact that as many as six players from the Euro 2020 team are going to the Olympics speaks volumes about how fantastic this team should be, as well as how successful the senior national team could become.
The tournament in Japan provides another glimpse of an up-and-coming generation that aspires to return Spain to its rightful place in the world.
After being eliminated by Italy, they rightfully cling to that dream.
Despite the disappointment, there is optimism, a sense of accomplishment after reaching the semifinals, and the belief that this is just the beginning.
Luis Enrique claimed that Spain’s nine-year journey finished the desert was now over; the seleccion was “back,” he said, and now some of them are traveling to Saitama to build a future and go for gold.
Spain Came Up Short At Euro 2020 But Many Of The Same Players Are Again Aiming For Olympic Gold
Well, at long last, it’s finished.
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