Deep-lying Iniesta aims for more glory
Andres Iniesta, the driving force behind Spanish triumphs at the last two Euros and scorer of the goal that delivered their only World Cup in between, will hope to provide further inspiration as his country target a record fourth European Championship triumph.The virtuoso midfielder's extra-time strike against the Netherlands in Johannesburg in 2010 earned him universal devotion in Spain, with even Real Madrid supporters giving the Barcelona man a standing ovation on his most recent visits to the Bernabeu.
With his trusted midfield companion Xavi Hernandez retired from international football, Iniesta is the last architect of the 'tiki-taka'style of fast-moving passing football which Spain mastered to dominate the world game between 2008 and 2012.
He has also evolved his game in recent years, dropping deeper and dictating the play rather than just fuelling the attack. His influence on games is more subtle now, yet it is no less important.
"Iniesta has unique peripheral vision. He is a magical player," said Barca coach Luis Enrique earlier this year, while Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said recently that the midfielder was "in the form of his life".
Named best player at Euro 2012, Iniesta is set for his sixth major tournament with Spain in France. At the age of 32, it could well be his last.
He is likely to captain the team in their opening group game against Czech Republic if, as expected, Ike Casillas drops to the bench.
As Spain try to rise again after their painful early exit from the World Cup two years ago, the elegant pass master is best placed to orchestrate another triumph and reassert their credentials among football's elite.