Spain begins European title defence after hectic week
FRANCE: After a hectic final week of preparations that has raised concerns about the team's readiness, Spain will start defending its European Championship title on Monday.
The two-time defending champions take on the Czech Republic in their Group D opener looking to rebound from an embarrassing loss to 137th-ranked Georgia in their final warm-up game, and from an off-the-field controversy involving goalkeeper David de Gea.
De Gea's name appeared in court papers as part of a police investigation into a prostitution ring allegedly involving a Spanish pornographic filmmaker. The goalkeeper was accused by a protected witness of promoting an encounter between her and two other soccer players.
Federation officials had to hastily organize a news conference so De Gea could explain himself. A team meeting also was called so the Manchester United goalkeeper could give his version of what happened to his teammates.
De Gea denied any wrongdoing and indicated he would sue those who accused him.
Instead of focusing on soccer and the match against Czech Republic in Toulouse, however, the main subject at the camp was De Gea's problems.
"I will only say this once. We won't talk about this issue," Spain striker Aritz Aduriz said. "We'll say nothing at all."
De Gea is fighting for a starting position with veteran Iker Casillas and it was unclear how the allegations would affect his chances to start on Monday. Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque defended his player but didn't say if
he would get to start.
Spain had arrived in France filled with doubts after the disappointing 1-0 loss to Georgia at home on Tuesday, a game that Del Bosque said was supposed to boost the team's confidence going into tournament but instead raised some doubts.
"We really want to start playing," Spain midfielder Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion said. "It's true that we had a setback, but it's better that it happened then and not during the Euros."
The Czech Republic also lost its final warm-up match, falling 2-1 to South Korea in Prague. Just a few days earlier, Spain had routed South Korea 6-1 in Austria.
Spain hasn't lost an official match since October 2014, against Slovakia. It has won eight straight competitive games, and the last three against the Czechs.
Spain will be trying to regain its soccer supremacy after a disappointing early elimination from the 2014 World Cup. It had arrived in Brazil as the favorite after winning three straight major titles but couldn't make it out of the group stage.
The other teams in Group D are Turkey and Croatia, who play on Sunday in Paris.