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Euro 2000 - Expectations

Spain's fantastic run in the qualifying rounds, with a record number of 42 goals in eight matches, must make them one of the favourites for the finals. José Antonio Camacho has now been in charge for around a year and a half, and he has transformed the side, introducing 23 new players and changing the playing style to a more balanced common-sense approach.

There must remain some doubt however as to their ability to come up with the goods on the big stage. Their rivals in the qualifying stages were not first level teams, and their recent defeat at home to Argentina has raised some questions. They need to overcome their reputation as perennial under-achievers if they are to make it all the way, and need more confidence in themselves at the later stage of competitions to come good.

They are not without stars however, the players who make the difference in the key matches, and Raúl is rapidly becoming one of the best players in the world at only 22 years of age. Hierro, Luis Enrique (not available for Euro 2000 through injury), Julen Guerrero and Guardiola (if fit) have already proved themselves on the world stage (at least at club level), and the new men introduced by Camacho, including Paco, Engonga, Valerón, Mendieta and Munitis, are gelling well with the veterans.

There remains a doubt at the goalkeeping level, with Zubizarreta's replacement Cañizares still not on form after a long injury, although Molina is covering adequately and may well be first choice for the finals.

Their defence may also be somewhat suspect, with Sergi out for a large part of the season and Hierro not as young as he used to be, and Camacho has been trying new players in the last few friendly games.

The return to form of Etxeberria, Fran, Urzaiz and Morientes is a plus for the side, and all four will probably be valuable members of the squad.

All in all the jury is still out, but they should put up a better performance than they did in the last world cup, and if their key players can avoid injuries in the long Spanish season leading up to the finals, they should be there or thereabouts at the end.