Losing a legend: Spain's Euro 2012 hopes hit hard by Villa injury blow

The Barcelona striker will be out of the continental competition after failing to fully recover from a broken tibia sustained in December's Club World Cup. He will be sorely missed

By Ben Hayward | Spain Expert

It was another significant setback for Spain. With dauntless defender Carles Puyol already a confirmed casualty for Euro 2012, coach Vicente del Bosque could ill-afford additional absences as he prepares La Roja for their assault on a third major international triumph in four years. But Tuesday brought bad news: David Villa will miss the summer showpiece, too.

The Barcelona striker simply isn't ready for the rigours of the continental competition, the Catalan club confirmed in a statement. Villa, they said, had tried his best, but ultimately failed to find full fitness for Friday's final of the Copa del Rey, nor for Euro 2012. Spain's star striker will watch the tournament at home.

Villa fractured his tibia at the Club World Cup against Al Sadd in December. And how sad it is that, five months later, he is still unable to do what he does best: kick a football - more often than not into the net.

The Asturian attacker has played a pivotal part in Spain's success over the last four years. He scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 win over Russia at Euro 2008 and finished with four goals in as many games to claim the Golden Boot in Austria and Switzerland, although he was forced to miss the final after picking up an injury in the last-four clash - against Russia again.

At the World Cup in 2010, he hit five goals as Spain sealed a second success in the space of two years, scoring against Honduras (two), Chile, Portugal and Paraguay as La Roja secured football's most prestigious prize. In total, Spain scored eight times in South Africa. Villa netted five all on his own.

He has since gone on to become the country's all-time top goalscorer - having overtaken Raul - and one of a select few footballers to surpass the magic mark of 50 international goals. But it will be a while before he celebrates another strike for Spain.



Spain 4-1 Russia - June 10, 2008
The striker hit a hat-trick as La Roja thrashed Russia and was key to Spain's success at Euro 2008, scoring four goals for Luis Aragones' side on their way to the trophy
Paraguay 0-1 Spain - July 3, 2010
Villa's fifth goal of the finals saw Spain edge past a stubborn Paraguay to seal a place in the semis. At that point, he had netted all but one of La Roja's strikes in South Africa, playing a pivotal part in their first-ever World Cup triumph
Spain 2-1 Czech Republic - March 25, 2011
Spain were a goal down in this Euro qualifier but Villa struck twice to break Raul's record of 44 goals. The Barca man now has 51 in 82 games and his strike rate is bettered only by Alfredo Di Stefano
Villa, though, is as honest a player you could meet and he will have had his team's best interests in mind when he made the decision to drop out of Del Bosque's squad. Missing a major tournament for his country will have broken his heart - and will it have left Spain's supporters sad as well. But it is the right call.

"I tried until the very end but I wouldn't be able to be at 100 per cent for the Euros," Villa wrote on Twitter. "I called the national team coach to tell him, it was the honest thing to do."

Del Bosque will hope that, in his absence, Fernando Torres can regain something like the form which saw him decide the last European Championship in Spain's favour, while Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado look likely to get the call and could prove paramount for the reigning champions, along with Atletico Madrid's Adrian - an in-form forward with a point to prove at the very highest level.

Only time will tell whether Spain can cope, but losing Villa is a big blow. With the inspirational figure of Puyol already absent and doubts in defence due to the dip in form suffered by both Gerard Pique and Alvaro Arbeloa this term, life is hardly a bed of roses for La Roja right now.

In the meantime, Villa will continue to recover and recuperate. He'll be back scoring for Spain - but it's not the romantic return Spanish fans had hoped for. And without their star striker, La Roja's title aspirations in Poland and Ukraine lie very much in the balance.

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