Euro 2024: Pedri headlines Spain absentees, but no panic from coach before semis

COLOGNE, Germany — Midfield maestro Pedri is out for Spain. So too, is Dani Carvajal, man of the match in this past season’s Champions League final. On Tuesday against France, in the Euro 2024 semifinal, defender Robin Le Normand will also be missing.

Playing with three starters down would be a blistering blow for most teams at such a crucial juncture. Head coach Luis de la Fuente’s side, the most convincing performers in the tournament so far and fresh off an extra-time triumph over host Germany, is positioned better than any to take it all in stride.

“This is a collective game,” said defender Marc Cucurella, who was at the center of a controversial (but ultimately correct) handball non-call as time ran thin in the quarterfinal. 

“We are a united team, which gives everything for its teammate. That is one of the secrets. 

Spain vs. Germany Highlights | UEFA Euro 2024

Spain vs. Germany Highlights | UEFA Euro 2024

“Those of us who have been here know that anyone can perform at the level. We have to do things well, but the coach is the one who decides the replacements.”

Given Spain’s depth, there doesn’t seem to be much likelihood of de la Fuente tinkering around with his tactical formation, meaning that his switches are probably destined to be like-for-like swaps.

Even then, there is a sense that things could have been a lot worse. Spain received seven yellow cards against Germany, two of which combined for Carvajal’s red. But only he and Le Normand are suspended, and not Alvaro Morata as was initially feared.

Under UEFA rules, if Spain advances, the only way any of its players would miss the final would be if they were sent off in the semifinal match.

The incomers are expected to be Dani Olmo for Pedri, who was injured a few minutes into the quarterfinal after colliding with Toni Kroos, Jesus Navas for Carvajal, and Nacho for Le Normand.

Navas will be tasked with controlling Kylian Mbappe, who will be keen to end France’s desperate scoring woes, the team having managed just one penalty kick and two own goals in the competition.

“We will have to be very focused,” Cucurella added. “When we are attacking, it will be important to be vigilant. If we are alert and recover the ball quickly, we have a good chance.”

Spain vs. Germany: Final 3 minutes of UNREAL quarterfinal match

Spain vs. Germany: Final 3 minutes of UNREAL quarterfinal match

De la Fuente has done a good job of understanding what role best fits which player — and their personality. That facility will come in useful with the enforced changes brewing.

“We have a lot of versatility and possibilities to line up many players,” the coach added. “It is great to have a typical lineup, but each game has a nuance that we might understand has to be different.

Roles matter.

Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams are tasked with little more than thinking about attack, using their speed and liveliness to frighten defenders.

Nacho still has a place despite being bound for the Saudi league. Aymeric Laporte plays there already.

Compared to some of Spain’s soccer superstars, Olmo is comparatively unknown, having never played professionally in his homeland. He moved from Barcelona’s youth system to Croatia’s Dynamo Zagreb when still a teen, and would field calls from Barca coaches for months afterward, wondering where he was.

Now 26 and with Germany’s RB Leipzig, Olmo scored Spain’s first on Friday, then set up Mikel Merino’s winner with a fine cross. 

There is a collective willingness in Spain’s group to play for the greater good of the team. Even Carvajal was a case in point. His challenge on Jamal Musiala for the second yellow card looked clumsy, but he knew what he was doing and that stopping his opponent from getting a cross in was more important in that moment than avoiding another booking.

That’s the kind of level of commitment Spain has. And that’s why they are still the team to beat, with just a week of Euro 2024 left.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.


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