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Euro 2008 - Expectations

Always the same old story, Spain's youngsters clean up in all the international competitions, but the grown-ups don't make it past the early stages. Will it be the same again, or will "la selección" finally fulfil their eternal promise?

Certainly they have the talent to go all the way, with Cesc Fábregas and Fernando Torres setting alight the premiership this season, Casillas and Sergio Ramos leading Real Madrid to yet another league title in Spain, and Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta key figures in Barcelona's run to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Valencia and Espanyol's poor form has cost the place of players such as Albelda, Joaquín, Riera and Tamudo, and veteran coach Luis Aragonés has stubbornly refused to bow to media pressure and readmit Raúl in to his squad. But the on-form Villarreal have contributed three men to the side, Villa and Silva are starting to peak, and La Liga's top scorer Güiza is an exciting prospect.

Almost certainly they should make it through the group stage, albeit that they have had some problems with all of their opponents in recent years. But the crunch will come in the quarter finals, when they are scheduled to meet a side from "the group of death", comprising Italy, France, Holland and Romania.

That will be when their character needs to show through, and with Aragonés already due to hand over to Vicente Del Bosque after the tournament ends, he will give it his best shot to go out in a blaze of glory. The six million Peseta question is, "will his players oblige?".