Saturday, July 20, 2024

De La Fuente: Wary of ‘powerful’ England in final


Spain coach Luis de la Fuente warned of the threat carried by England ahead of Sunday’s European Championship final in Berlin, even if he acknowledged his side have been better at the tournament so far.

Ollie Watkins scored a late winner on Wednesday as England came from behind to beat the Netherlands and set up a showdown with Spain, who beat France 2-1 24 hours earlier.

The two nations have experienced vastly different runs to the final, with Spain winning all six of their matches, featuring victories against Croatia, Italy, hosts Germany and the much-fancied French team.

England, meanwhile, were criticised for their performances in the group stage and their victory over the Netherlands was just their second inside 90 minutes at the finals after needing extra-time to knock out Slovakia and penalties against Switzerland.

“Before starting the tournament, England and France would have been favourites, as well as Germany for the fact they were playing at home,” De la Fuente told reporters after learning who Spain will face at the Olympiastadion this weekend.

“We have had the chance to keep overcoming those games [against the favourites] and now we have another huge match. Maybe Spain have offered a better version so far at the finals [than England], but that won’t have any influence on a one-off game.

“England have quality players that can appear at any moment. We are up against a really powerful side full of experience, not just in terms of the national team, but at club level as well. It’s going to be tough.

“But we’re looking forward to this one. We want to keep growing. This group of players are going to keep fighting to try and win the trophy.”

Despite the doubts about England’s performances, Harry Kane still co-leads the Golden Boot race with three, while Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka have also made key contributions.

It will be the first time Spain have played England in a major tournament since Euro 1996, when the two sides met in the quarterfinal at Wembley with the Three Lions progressing on penalties.

The last meeting in any game was in 2018, when two goals from Raheem Sterling and one from Marcus Rashford helped England beat Spain 3-2 in the UEFA Nations League in Seville.

Spain have no new fitness issues ahead of the final, with captain Álvaro Morata expected to be fine to lead the line despite suffering a scare when a stadium security guard accidentally slammed into him during the celebrations after the France win.

Defenders Dani Carvajal and Robin Le Normand will both return from suspension for the final, although Pedri and Ayoze Pérez are both sidelined with injuries.



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