Football

Mendieta: Spain can get to Euro final

Despite dropping stars, ex-Spain ace Mendieta confident del Bosque's men will deliver in France

They dazzled the world with their intricate brand of football en route to winning three consecutive major international tournaments - Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012.

But, at the 2014 World Cup, Spain failed to live up to expectations as they crashed out in the group stage after succumbing to comprehensive defeats by Holland and Chile.

Ahead of next month's Euro 2016 in France, many have called for coach Vicente del Bosque to ring the changes in the team's personnel and playing style.

The 65-year-old responded by dropping a bombshell on Tuesday, when he left out the likes of Diego Costa, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres from his provisional Euro squad.

However, former Spain and Valencia midfielder Gaizka Mendieta, 42, feels those in the squad are talented enough to fill the gaps.

"Luckily, Spain have always produced fantastic and individually skilled players. It's a matter of playing as a team," he said, on the sidelines of a community event at Bukit Ho Swee yesterday.

"In del Bosque's mind, that's the team he feels will be competitive."

Del Bosque has given the nod to uncapped pair Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez, while Athletic Bilbao's 35-year-old striker Aritz Adruiz has also been included.

Mendieta, who made 40 appearances for the national team (1999-2002), believes these players are capable of taking La Roja to the final.

"We should go as far as hopefully to the final, but we know how competitive it is. It's a massive tournament with fantastic teams, so it's always so difficult," he said.

"But Spain are the defending champions and we want to win again."

TIKI-TAKA

La Liga ambassador Mendieta, together with Valencia striker Santi Mina and goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, yesterday visited Beyond Social Services, an organisation helping underprivileged youths.

The trio also stopped by a rental flat at Beo Crescent, where they presented a couple and their four boys with a club jersey and scarf before posing for photos.

A crowd then gathered to cheer on youths from the neighbourhood as they challenged the Valencia players in a kickabout, with Mina and Ryan showing off some silky skills and neat passes.

It mirrored the Spanish tiki-taka philosophy, something Mendieta thinks is forever etched in the way they play, regardless of past failures.

"We've always played tiki-taka and we like possession - sorry, but that's something that will never change," he said.

"There's no lesson to learn from the 2014 World Cup; it was obviously a disappointing tournament and we will definitely try to improve on that.

"We could be slightly more or less direct, but we are small-sized kids, and we play with the football."

GAIZKA MENDIETACOMMUNITY EVENTBukit Ho Sweela ligaambassadorValencia CFUncategorisedMATHEW RYANBEO CRESCENT