Euro 2024: Spain benefitting from outsider tag – Cucurella

Marc Cucurella has said Spain have benefitted from being seen as outsiders before Euro 2024 kicked off as they prepare to face France in the semifinal in Munich on Tuesday.

Spain were not considered among the outright favourites at the start of the tournament, but they are now heavily fancied to go all the way in Germany after winning five games in a row and eliminating the hosts in Stuttgart on Friday.

“Within football, there has long been respect for Spain, how we play and the players we have, but maybe coming in [to Euro 2024] as outsiders helped us,” Cucurella said in a news conference on Sunday.

“We started with the confidence of having nothing to lose. Now that confidence has grown and we are in the key moment of the tournament.

“I knew we had a great team, which has been proven. We have fought so hard to be here and now we need one last big effort. Two more steps.”

After beating Croatia, Italy, Albania and Georgia, three-time European champions Spain faced their toughest test yet against Germany, eventually winning 2-1 after extra time.

Germany, though, were angered by referee Antony Taylor’s decision not to give a penalty before Mikel Merino‘s 119th minute winner when a Jamal Musiala shot struck Cucurulla’s hand, which was by his side.

It led Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann to call for AI to be used to help make decisions related to possible handballs in the area.

“It hit my hand but I saw the referee quickly said ‘no, no,'” Cucurella said of the moment. “That made me calm. If the experts have since said it’s not handball, too, then it’s not handball and that’s that.

“I understand there’s a doubt, we are tired of seeing handballs, some yes, some no. But if Germany won, we would not be talking about it.

“We could have complained about [Toni] Kroos not getting booked earlier [for a challenge on Pedri] and then maybe he’s sent off later. In the end, we scored one more goal than them and went through.”

Cucurella has been one of the revelations of the tournament for Spain. Few expected him to make the squad months ago and it was not certain he would start ahead of Alejandro Grimaldo in the opener against Croatia.

“Possibly, yes,” the Chelsea defender responded when asked if he felt his reputation has been boosted in his homeland on the back of his performances.

“When you go abroad it’s difficult, people lose track [of you] a little. It’s normal, people watch Spanish football and the teams they have supported since they were young.

“The praise is all welcome. It does not matter if it’s arriving too soon or too late, it’s better if people are saying good things about you.

“There is a lot hard work in silence behind it which is now bearing fruit. I am happy to be here with the national team and now all that’s left is to take the final steps [to win the tournament].”

France stand between Spain and a possible final against either England or the Netherlands in Berlin on July 14.

Spain will be without the suspended Dani Carvajal and Robin Le Normand against France, while Pedri has been ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a knee injury.

“We will have to be very focused against France, above all when attacking because we will have to be careful when we lose the ball,” Cucurella said.

“They have quick players in attack and can exploit that. We will have to be focused for the 90 minutes or however long the game lasts. If we can win the ball back quickly, I think we have a good chance.”