‘We need the ball. We want to have it.’

By Andrew Das

Spain might not be the best version of itself, and it is definitely not the version, at least, that thrashed Italy, 4-0, in the final of Euro 2012. But it still plays a very Spanish style, heavy on passing and possession.

That, as our colleague Rory Smith has noted, can be both a positive and a negative — and it has been both at this tournament. But it will absolutely be the game plan today, Spain’s coach, Luis Enrique, said Monday.

“We’re leaders in the possession stats, but they too are a side who enjoy playing with the ball, so that’s going to be the first battle to win,” Luis Enrique said. “But they’re also very good without the ball. We need the ball. We want to have it.”

Still, history can be a terrible burden, and Luis Enrique has spent some time since the quarterfinals trying to temper expectations for Spain’s current team, which has the youngest average age in the tournament but nothing like the pedigree of its predecessors, who sandwiched European titles in 2008 and 2012 around the country’s only World Cup championship.

“It’s impossible to understate this,” he said. “We’re not an experienced national team.”

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