Luis de la Fuente has built a young side around an experienced spine but can they recapture the glory years for La Roja?

Spain’s players toss head coach Luis de la Fuente in the air as they celebrate winning the Nations League final against Croatia in June 2023. Photograph: Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA-EFE

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


Spain arrive in Germany with much better prospects than could have been imagined 18 months ago when they lost to Morocco on penalties in the last 16 of the World Cup and then replaced Luis Enrique with Luis de la Fuente. The national team had shown a worrying lack of imagination in Qatar and, instead of appointing another coach with a high-profile club career, the Spanish football federation looked within and hired one who had spent most of his career with the Spain youth sides. However, the experiment did not start well.

De la Fuente’s side lost the second game of the Euro qualifying campaign, 2-0 against Scotland at Hampden Park, and De la Fuente came in for a lot of criticism. There was even speculation he would lose his job even at that early stage of his time in charge. However, Spain’s next games were in the Nations League finals against Italy and Croatia, two teams they are due to face in their group in Germany.

Italy were defeated 2-1 after a late goal from Joselu in the semi-final and the tournament was then won on penalties after a goalless draw against Croatia. The success gave the team – and the coach – a platform from which to build. The project has felt very stable since then and has proceeded serenely. De la Fuente has also learned from his mistakes, for example not repeating the error of making eight changes, which he did for the Scotland defeat. He has also shown he is capable of playing a more direct style of football than that criticised in Qatar, without losing control of the game, mainly because of the calming influence of Rodri in midfield. The wingers are more involved and he is not afraid to use a pure striker like Joselu.

Spain won their remaining qualifying games but lost the supremely talented Gavi on the way after he picked up an ACL injury against Georgia. There are also big question marks around Pedri, who has had his own injury problems and has not been at De la Fuente’s disposal, while the first-choice No 9, Álvaro Morata, has struggled this spring. However, despite all these problems, it feels as if Spain are travelling to the Euros with a very good foundation and should be counted among the favourites.