Fatigue now an issue for Spain


SID LOWEon why the defending champions are happy with their base in Poland despite all the travel involved

WHEN SPAIN departed the Donbass Arena in Donetsk it was after 1am. A flight to Gdansk awaited. The plane touched down after 4am and some players made their way to hotels in Gdansk; others took an hour’s drive back to their Gniewino HQ. Those that did so arrived well after 5am Polish time, 6am Ukrainian.

Yesterday was a day of rest with family and friends. But training begins today and Spain will have only two days to prepare for the semi-final against Portugal. That is two days fewer than their opponents.

Spain’s physical trainer, Javier Minano, admits this discrepancy may have an impact on the team’s performance, but insists it will not be used as an excuse. However, he is unclear how close Spain’s players are to the limit after a season in which many of them have played 5,000 minutes.

Against Italy, for example, Spain’s players had played on average eight games more than the Italians. “It’s been a long season and we are paying the price for that,” Sergio Busquets said.

Spain have chosen to stay in their Polish base despite playing their quarter-final and semi-final in Ukraine, but are studying a move to Ukraine if they reach the final. The climate shift made an impact on Saturday night, with Xabi Alonso losing three kilogrammes during the game.

The manager, Vicente del Bosque, has also been reluctant to rotate: 10 players have started every game, with the only variables being Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas.

“Fatigue is a factor, but we prefer not to think about that,” Alonso said, while Xavi Hernandez added: “It was very hot and humid and we did struggle with that. We can feel the tiredness but we still competed well.”

Gerard Pique said: “We’re more tired than we were the first day. But when you’re in the semi-final of the Euros you can’t think about that.”

Minano said: “The extra two days’ rest gives [Portugal] a certain advantage. But we had a day more than France for this latest game, so we can’t use that as an excuse. After a huge effort we will now spend the next two days with recuperation, getting the players ready again.

“After the game, there are 14 different recovery programmes. We like the players to keep the same individualised routines they use with their clubs and then, collectively, we do all we can to help them be in the best possible condition.

“We don’t know where the limit is, but a few years ago it was unthinkable that a player could play 5,000 minutes, as is the case with some of them now. The response so far has been good and the coach is choosing the players he thinks can give the best.”

Asked whether it might have been better to leave Poland for the Ukraine to avoid having to travel back and forth to their base, Minano said: “We have studied that possibility but we have been very comfortable in Gniewino and although we did think of going to Ukraine we decided to stay here, even though it means more hours travelling.

“The tranquility and the facilities here are a big part of the decision, but we are looking into moving away if we do reach the final.”

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