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EURO 2012 Preview
Spain out to make history
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Spain manager Vicente del Bosque is well aware of the difficult task that lies ahead for his team.

After finally breaking through and winning Euro 2008, Del Bosque's men followed up that triumph two years later by claiming their first World Cup title in South Africa.

And now Spain is bidding to become the first international side to ever win three major championships in succession.

"Winning for a third time may be the toughest task yet, but it is one this team will relish," Del Bosque said. "While the experience of succeeding in big tournaments is likely to be more important for us, we know that teams are now looking for ways to disrupt and challenge what we do."

Spain has certainly developed an ability to come through in a big situation over the past four years, but Del Bosque is correct that teams are also starting to look for ways to disrupt his fluid attacking side.

The strategy that has appeared most effective for the opposition is to clog the defensive third of the field in an effort to frustrate Spain and hit on the counter attack.

It was an effective strategy for Switzerland in the opening match of the 2010 World Cup as Spain sustained its lone defeat, 1-0, before going on to win the tournament.

And while Spain once again has to be considered among the favorites, teams like Germany, which Spain beat in the Euro 2008 final, and the Netherlands, which lost to the Spanish in the final of the 2010 World Cup, are certainly on the same level.

There are a few things that make this Spain team appear more vulnerable than in the past few years.

One is overall team fitness, with many players enduring long and tiring campaigns with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Already Spain will be without two key pieces because of injuries as defensive veteran Carles Puyol is out and must be replaced by either Sergio Ramos or Raul Albiol.

The Spanish attack also lost a bit of its bite as leading scorer David Villa has failed to recover from a broken leg suffered in December, leaving the enigmatic Fernando Torres and Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente to pick up the slack.

Spain still has arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Iker Casillas, while a plethora of talented midfielders, including Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas are still at Del Bosque's disposal.

Italy will provide a good test in the opening match in Group C for Spain, with games against Ireland and Croatia to follow.

Whether or not Spain is able to make history may ultimately rest on how fresh Del Bosque can keep his team as they attempt to make another exhausting push to a major final.

A run of dominance like this doesn't come along very often, and Del Bosque knows it will be even more difficult to sustain such a high level of excellence.

"This is a generation of brilliance in Spain," Del Bosque said. "As a coach, my job is to try and maximize potential of great players, and for the last two tournaments, this team have been perfect."

If Spain is going to achieve history by winning another major tournament, perfection might once again be required.

OUTLOOK

There may be a few more questions surrounding Spain than in years past, but this is a team that will still be favored to win Group C and at least reach the semifinals based on its superior talent alone. But the last four is where it gets tricky because Del Bosque's men could come up against either Germany or the Netherlands, both of which have the ability to end this run of Spanish dominance. Spain has enjoyed an unbelievable run of success over the past four years, but squeezing one more taxing title run out of an already tired squad might be too much to ask.

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