There is courage in standing by one's beliefs. In not moving when the world asks you to, in succeeding with your own methods and laughing in the face of doubters. In that manner, the refusal of change should be applauded. But conversely, not changing when all evidence points to a need for it, because of fear or comfortability, is cowardice. Spain started off and won in the World Cup of 2010 and Euros 2012 with courage and failed in the 2014 World Cup because of fear.
They wanted the theater of change, rather than the actual thing. Vicente del Bosque added youngsters to the squad, but fell back to his comfort zone, to the players who have served him so well over the years, the ones that he knew, when the games came. And that spelled disaster. Time moves on, and takes with it the legs, strength and impact of the ones from yesteryear.
Spain was strong then, everyone fails and they are strong now. Some of the leaders of 2012 and 2010 are still around: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva. A few of the choices are naturally contentious. Casillas hasn't been a good goalkeeper for a few years and Fabregas has had a forgettable season, but it's not truly a national team squad choice without controversy.
That dispute stretches to those left behind. Isco will not travel to France, even with it being clear that he's a rare talent of a player. The argument can be made that he lacks the playing time for his club that would have seen him selected, but then again his teammate Lucas Vazquez was selected, along with Marc Bartra. The exclusion of Saul should rank as a cardinal sin. Unforgivable, unless Spain wins the tournament.
There is change, though. Or at least, a clear movement away from comfort and into the present. The Diego Costa experiment has come to an end, and Nolito, Alvaro Morata and Aritz Aduriz — because sometimes you have to go back to the past to move forward — have been rewarded for their performances this season. So have Thiago and Koke, the two midfielders who hold Spain's future at their feet. Hector Bellerin also sneaks in through injury to Dani Carvajal.
Spain is obviously, and deservedly, one of the favorites to win the tournament. They still have an excellent midfield, defense and line of strikers that should intimidate their opponents. They also have a style of play that confounds opposition players and strangles hopes and dreams. Tiki-Taka took some steps back a few years ago, but it is far from dead. It just needed new energy.
The problem for the defending champions is the same one that they faced in the World Cup. When the going gets tough —when the games are critical — will del Bosque believe in the powers of the younger players, or will he fall back to playing the ancient ones?
It should be an easy answer. Spain has a wealth of talent and the newer generation combine the technique and intelligence of their elders with the relentlessness, audaciousness and ambition that comes with the supposed invincibility and naivety of youth. That's what this side has been missing for years: that slight recklessness of new blood. The team became bland after three straight successes in three consecutive tournaments, and that's understandable — when you win everything, the hunger naturally dies. But these young players haven't won much, and neither has the old/new ones. They are salivating at the chance for glory. Spain has to trust in them and give them the opportunity to prove their mettle.
Otherwise, we could see another failure if del Bosque goes back to relying on the players who have already filled themselves on trophies and now, understandably, cannot raise their game to the old levels. Let the young boys prosper.