x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Give the Spanish football side a break

Politicians and the football federation are both mistaken to put pressure on the talented but stretched world and European champions.

Missing from the Spanish European and world champions' squad are the injured David Villa and Carles Puyol. Javier Lizon / EPA
Missing from the Spanish European and world champions' squad are the injured David Villa and Carles Puyol. Javier Lizon / EPA

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, piled on the pressure. "Win the tournament to lift the country in these difficult times," he told the Spain squad before Sunday's 1-0 friendly victory over China in Seville.

That was their last game before La Roja kick off their Euro 2012 tournament against Italy in Gdansk on Sunday.

With good news in short supply amid a deepening economic crisis, sport offers a shaft of light for Spaniards.

World champions Spain are favourites to win Euro 2012 and become the first country to retain a major trophy and, while they are unquestionably the team to beat, the players do not appreciate the extra political pressure.

Spain may be brilliant but they cannot offer a panacea for the country's deep-rooted troubles.

There are warning signs, too – and not just the absence of their all-time top scorer David Villa through injury.

The Spanish football federation has hawked its stars around the world to the highest bidders in a series of friendly games which have produced unflattering results.

They are striking while the iron is hot and the players are cut in on the proceeds, but many of Spain's stars have played 60 or more games since August in a domestic season which only finished with the Spanish Cup final on May 25 – two weeks after most European leagues had closed.

The federation may have got rich in a country of people increasingly impoverished, but it has been the greatest enemy of the squad over which it has responsibility. It is flogging a thoroughbred, but even thoroughbreds need a rest.

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