STILL NOT BLUE
Cesar Azpilicueta hopes Spain can do a Chelsea by turning their dreadful campaign around to become kings of Europe.
La Roja must win their final Group E crunch against Slovakia here tomorrow to guarantee their place in the last 16.
Yet they have already been written off by many – including a large number of their own fans – after drawing both of their opening two games at home to Sweden and Poland.
It is the first time Spain have failed to win either of their two opening matches at a Euros since 1996.
That has left them third in their table and facing an embarrassing early exit.
But Stamford Bridge ace Azpi is urging his country to take heart from his club after helping them to Champions League glory last month.
He said: “Many people thought the same during the season with Chelsea. Many thought we were dead during the season.
“You learn from that, that’s the lesson, you have to keep fighting until the final.
“We have a very clear objective and we are not going to give up.”
Azpilicueta delivered his country’s much-needed rally cry at their Madrid training camp yesterday.
When it was pointed out to him that three-times winners Spain were no longer favourites to progress to the next stage let alone lift the trophy, the defender snapped: “Favourites? Portugal were not favourites in 2016 and they won it. We have advanced to the latter stages of tournaments after difficult starts. Now we have a chance to get through.
“If we win we will be in the last 16 and we have a challenge. Nobody wins the Euros before you start. It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.
“I experienced that this year in the Champions League. This team has the potential to face up to this challenge
“Of course we know we have to improve things. The Slovakia game is like a knockout game.
“I am convinced that if we are all together, including the fans, we will go through.”
Spain stars were booed off by their own followers after their opening stalemate with Sweden on Monday and their 1-1 draw with Poland on Saturday.
Azpilicueta admitted: “We are the first to say that we would love to be closer to the fans. We have always thanked the fans for their support from the pitch.
“Because of the Covid we have been further away but the link between us and the fans is there and we know that we have to give the fans something back now.”
Asked if he had a message for the fans, he said: “To give messages out here matters little. We have to give them out on the pitch.
“What is unnegotiable is the strength and attitude. I hope that when the match finishes on Wednesday we are all happy.”
Azpilicueta, 28, is yet to kick a ball at this tournament, with Spain boss Luis Enrique preferring to play Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente at right-back.
The Blues defender said: “I came here with the objective of supporting the team the best that I could.
“I prepare myself to the best of my ability, so that I am ready to play, just like everyone does.
“We have a staff who decide what the team is and I have been supporting the team from the bench.
“Marcos is playing at an incredible level. He can play in many positions and he is in great form. From my position I try to help him.
“The 24 players train to play but the manager picks the team. We all have the desire to play. I can only train better”