'Is it worth the trouble?' - Spanish star Pedro unhappy with bench role
In a tournament of flawed teams, Spain have been the best so far and resume their pursuit of perfection against Croatia, who will be without Luka Modric, in Bordeaux.
Only Spain and Italy still have a 100pc record and it is Vicente del Bosque's team who have produced the stand-out performance so far in their 3-0 demolition of Turkey in Nice last Friday.
They have a settled side playing good football and appear to have a far better balance between possession and penetration than they did when they collapsed at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago.
That team did not make it out of the group stage after bad defeats to Netherlands and Chile. They had gone stale and so had their football.
This side, though, has a freshness and a direct style. The old masters who have been involved all the way from Euro 2008, David Silva and Andres Iniesta, are still here.
Iniesta has been the outstanding player of the tournament, even at 32. He is in the form of his life, which is saying something given everything he has achieved over the last 10 years with Spain and Barcelona.
There is a new sharpness to this side, too, which owes to Spain's rediscovery of muscular forward play. Alvaro Morata is leading the line, giving them a physical threat that Diego Costa's hamstrings did not allow him to do two years ago.
Nolito, on the left, is not their most accomplished player but provides willing running and a cutting edge.
Even with Iniesta, Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets, this is not a Spain side that seeks to play possession football for its own sake.
And yet not everyone is happy with its natural rhythm.
Pedro has not enjoyed an especially good first year in England since leaving Barcelona and, when Del Bosque wanted a direct threat out wide, he turned to Nolito rather than the man who scored in the 2011 Champions League final.
At every tournament there are players who are frustrated at not playing, but few who voice those concerns as Pedro did over the weekend.
"I had other expectations when I arrived here," Pedro said. "To take this role is very difficult for me, and you wonder if it is really worth the trouble to keep coming just to be part of the group."
Del Bosque knows that his group is in the right place right now and wanted to make as little of this as possible. "Pedro said something without meaning to - he made public a reality. He has apologised and there is no need for this to go any further."
Independent News Service
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