Could Spain three-peat? Winning Group D would give them a clear path

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It’s been nearly 12 years since a nation other than Spain won a European Championship, as Greece outlasted Portugal 1-0 in Lisbon in 2004.

Will it be 16?

After a disappointing 2014 World Cup, Spain looks to make it four of five tournament titles when play begins in France this month.

[ EURO PREVIEWS: Group A | B | C ]

It’s not unrealistic. For those with the memories of Spain’s embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Netherlands and group stage ouster in Brazil fresh in mind, La Furia Roja is reinvigorated.

Spain has lost exactly once since the start of 2015, keeping eight clean sheets with a total score line of 24-6.

What’s changed? Not a ton at the back, but a lot up front. While Vicente del Bosque brought Diego Costa, Fernando Torres, Pedro and David Villa to Brazil, only Pedro remains. Into the fold are young talents Alvaro Morata and Lucas Vazquez and veteran newcomers Aritz Aduriz and Nolito.

Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas are running the midfield, but Thiago and Koke are coming of age as well.

The tournament itself gives Spain a tricky road, though, as there isn’t a true weak side amongst Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia. However, Spain can get through by being one of the top four third-placed teams, something that should not prove difficult.

Should Spain win Group D, La Furia Roja could coast to the semifinals. The Group D winner gets the third-place team from either B, E or F, and then would be favored against the runners-up in A or C (presuming no upsets of Germany or France, the best of that bunch is likely Ukraine, Poland, or Switzerland).

And the next time Spain would face a group winner, it would be B or F, meaning that — if the chalk holds — it would avoid hosts France and powerful Germany until the final.

Of course all it takes is an upset along the way to make this a much harder proposition. A runner-up finish in Group D could bring Belgium or Italy before a quarterfinal draw against Germany and a semi against France. Even given its history, Spain wouldn’t be expected to survive that gauntlet.

But a Group D win could very easily see Spain on a workable path to the final, and who could bet against Del Bosque in a one-off setting?