Euro 2016

De Gea turmoil hits Spain

Spain's goalkeeper David De Gea during a training session on June 12.
Spain's goalkeeper David De Gea during a training session on June 12. PHOTO: REUTERS

Del Bosque tight-lipped on whether he has a role for goalie as title defence gets under way

GROUP D

Spain v Czech Republic

Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 8.50pm

PARIS • Accusations linking goalkeeper David de Gea to a sex scandal have thrown Spain's preparations into turmoil on the eve of their Euro 2016 opener.

The Manchester United player is vying with 167-cap veteran and captain Iker Casillas, a hero of Spain's three consecutive major championship triumphs between 2008 and 2012, for a starting place against the Czech Republic in Toulouse today.

De Gea has fiercely denied allegations that he organised a party at which two women were forced to have sex with two other footballers. He called the reports "lies" designed to damage his reputation.

WEIGHING UP THE CHOICES

We're in a period of reflection and we have to think it over. You have to think things over in life. I can't say now whether he will start or not.

VICENTE DEL BOSQUE, Spain coach, refusing to be drawn into the de Gea selection debate.

However, the storm has further complicated coach Vicente del Bosque's decision on whether to back the in-form de Gea or the immensely experienced Casillas.

On Saturday, when asked if de Gea would play against the Czech Republic, del Bosque said: "We're in a period of reflection and we have to think it over. You have to think things over in life. I can't say now whether he will start or not."

Casillas made himself a national hero with big saves at crucial moments as Spain won European titles in 2008 and 2012, with a maiden World Cup win in 2010.

However, del Bosque's loyalty to his captain despite a dramatic dip in form for club and country had previously been widely criticised.

The 35-year-old was a major culprit in Spain's disastrous showing at the 2014 World Cup as the holders bowed out after just two games.

A move away from the pressure cooker of Real Madrid after a 19-year career at the Bernabeu to Porto was supposed to bring a new lease of life for Casillas.

Instead, a series of high-profile errors led the Portuguese media to christen him "butterfingers" as Porto suffered a trophyless season.

De Gea's situation may prompt del Bosque to stick with Casillas in goal, while the manager must also decide whether to use Cesc Fabregas in a false nine role or play striker Alvaro Morata, who has overcome a thigh injury.

Del Bosque earned the wrath of critics at home after he left several big names out of his Euro 2016 squad including Juan Mata, Paco Alcacer and Fernando Torres.

The 65-year-old received further flak last Tuesday, when Spain were beaten 1-0 by Georgia in a warm-up at home.

The de Gea scandal has further complicated matters, but the players remain confident.

"The controversy hasn't changed anything," defender Sergio Ramos said yesterday. "We have a good atmosphere in the group and we will support our team-mates whatever."

The Czech Republic also lost their final warm-up match, falling 1-2 to South Korea in Prague.

Their form is indifferent and they have failed to beat Spain in their previous four games. However, full-back David Limbersky believes his side can spring a shock today.

"Every team have weaknesses, some more, some less," he told iSport. "The Spanish are very, very strong up front. On the other hand, each team have their own weakness. That is what we will try to exploit."

Coach Pavel Vrba has every member of his squad - including captain Tomas Rosicky - fit for the match. But he faces a big decision on who to play up front among Tomas Necid, Milan Skoda or the Czech top-flight's all-time record scorer David Lafata.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'De Gea turmoil hits Spain'. Print Edition | Subscribe