Alexa

Spain settle into mountainside base as expectations continue to build going into Euro 2008

Spain settle into mountainside base as expectations continue to build going into Euro 2008

The fresh mountain air and rolling green mountains were supposed to offer Spain's players respite from the weight of expectation that its star-studded squad is carrying into the European Championship.
That was probably always going to be wishful thinking.
Spain hasn't won a major football tournament since claiming the 1964 European Championship on home soil. One appearance in a final aside, at the 1984 edition, it hasn't even made a significant impact.
"We don't listen to what is being said on the outside," striker Dani Guiza said. "It suits us fine whatever people talk about. We don't listen."
Despite producing numerous talented players that have helped make Real Madrid and FC Barcelona become clubs with global brands, Spain hasn't been able to translate that ability to its international fortunes.
Defender Fernando Navarro said that could be down to disunity.
"We have to be united _ journalists, fans, players, everyone. We have to play together," he said.
The Spanish squad landed at its mountainside base Thursday, the last to arrive for the tournament in Austria and Switzerland that starts Saturday and runs through June 29.
The team had a rigorous training session in preparation for its Group D opener against Russia on Tuesday. Elsewhere in Austria, Russia coach Guus Hiddink called off the morning's practice session in Leogang to give his players more time to rest.
The urgency of the task ahead looked like it was beginning to sink in for Spain coach Luis Aragones. He prowled the field in-between games of one-touch and long-ball delivery during the morning practice barking, "Harder, harder" and, "That's it, that's it! More touches."
The pace _ and the several hundred fans that had gathered in the morning _ dipped for the cold and wet afternoon session. Nestled under a row of umbrellas along the touchline, the locals watched Aragones lead his charges through dribbling drills, shooting practice and game simulation in preparation for Russia.
Though Spain will go into Tuesday's game on a six-game winning run and undefeated in nearly 20 months, it will remember that it had to scrape through for a 1-0 group opening victory against the Russians in Portugal four years ago.
"(Russia) has integrated many players from the UEFA Cup-wining (Zenit St. Petersburg) this year and it's a dangerous team, so we have to be careful," Navarro said. "We've spoken about Russia as a team and how to play them, we are confident."
Spain's forwards are likely to be the catalyst if the team does well. Fernando Torres, David Villa and Guiza scored a combined 85 goals at club level this season, the most of any of the 16 teams at Euro 2008.
Villa is looking increasingly likely to start alongside Torres after returning to train with his teammates for the first time since injuring his thigh on Tuesday. Attacking midfielder Andres Iniesta also returned after recovering from food poisoning. Both players missed Wednesday's 1-0 friendly win against the United States as did striker Sergio Garcia, who remained questionable for the Russia match with a thigh problem.
Torres was in the thick of a high-tempo 5-on-5 match meant to simulate quick breakouts in the final minute of a match. Though he swung a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas, he hasn't been able to do the same against international opponents, with only 15 goals in 49 games for Spain.
Alvaro Arbeloa is confident that his Liverpool teammate will find his scoring touch.
"The national team definitely has a style of play that might not suit him best and maybe it's better for (David) Villa, but that is how it is," the right back said. "Our style of football is not the best for him. But he will score goals because that is the type of player he is.
"We're playing offensive football with players up front and that's how we like it."
Santi Cazorla trained alongside Aragones' regulars, perhaps as backup for Iniesta or winger David Silva, who has been ill the past few days.