VALENCIA (Reuters) – Spain must hit the ground running when they open their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign at home to Norway on Saturday, defender Jose Gaya said as he pledged to excite fans again after the country’s disappointing World Cup and Nations League campaigns.
Spain made a flying start under coach Luis Enrique in their Nations League campaign but missed out on a semi-final place after losing to England and drawing with Croatia, results which destroyed the early optimism after a terrible World Cup.
“It’s clear that we have to make people believe in us again,” Gaya told a news conference on Friday ahead of the game with Norway at his club Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium. Spain will also face Faroe Islands, Malta, Romania and Sweden in Group F.
“It all starts tomorrow, it’s the first game of qualifying and we have to make everyone excited and that’s what we’re going to try to do, put in a big performance with a defined style. That’s what we all want, a clear team with a clear idea.”
Luis Enrique has called up 41 players since taking charge in July after Julen Lopetegui was sacked on the eve of the World Cup where suffered a chastening elimination to unfancied hosts Russia on penalties in the last 16.
The coach said he would need time before he had a fixed idea of what he wanted his squad to look like and it was no use trying to compare his Spain side to the team which dominated international football between 2008 and 2012.
“I think these players have a huge capacity to grow, I’ve chosen these 23 because I think they are the best for these two games and I’d love them all to take a step forward,” he said.
“We have to create a new national team and that will only happen with time, games and good results.
“If we compared ourselves with the sides that won the (2008 and 2012) European Championships and the (2010) World Cup we would lose.
“A lot of those players are older or have retired. We are now looking to build another winning team, but winning trophies is not easy.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin; editing by Ken Ferris)