Today’s main report looks ahead to this summer’s European Championships in Poland and Ukraine and focuses on World and European holders Spain’s chances. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link below, while vocabulary support (in bold) appears at the foot of the report. There is also a worksheet (see left) for learners who wish to improve their English.
Teams sometimes suffer a dip in form after winning a major tournament but Spain followed up their World Cup 2010 victory with a flawless European qualifying campaign. They easily topped their group with a 100% record – they won all 8 of their matches against Scotland, Lithuania, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic.
Where to begin? The Spanish national team almost picks itself such is the consistency of its high-performing players. The Barca quintet of Xavi, Busquets, Pedro and Iniesta will of course be there, while Madrid’s Casilas, Ramos, and Albiol will bolster the defence but in this tournament they will be missing two key players: David Villa and Carles Puyol. Puyol is an inspirational figure at the back and will be sorely missed but goalscorer Villa is probably a greater loss. He has scored 10 goals in 11 games at the previous two major tournaments – 4 in Euro 2008 and 6 more in 2010 – and though Spain do have Bilbao’s Llorente and the 2008 winning goalscorer Torres in their team they will miss Villa.
They are the favourites to win Euro 2012 though injuries and the fact that no team has ever retained the European Championship or won three major tournaments in a row means that this competition could be their hardest challenge yet. Though their group is not a group of death it will be tricky enough with powerhouses Italy, dark horses Croatia and well-organised Ireland all ready to stop the Spanish. The first match is vital and if they can get something from that game against Italy then they should easily progress to the knock-out stages. After that, depending on injuries and luck, they should be there or thereabouts again.
Download Worksheet Here
suffer a dip in form: To not be playing very well
flawless: Perfect, without any mistakes
topped their group: To come first in the group
picks itself: The team is consistently good so there is no need to change it
quintet: Here it refers to five players (quartet is 4; trio is three)
bolster the defence: To strengthen the defence
will be sorely missed: Will be really missed
a poisoned chalice: Something (a job) that no one really wants
a safe pair of hands: Someone who can do the job well, one that everyone trusts
La Selección: The nickname of the Spanish national team
powerhouses: Traditionally strong team
they should be there or thereabouts again: They will be challenging for the title – probably make the final