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Del Bosque’s Dilemma – Who will Spain take on the plane?
- Updated: 28 April, 2012
As we head towards June’s 2012 European Championship tournament, attention will soon turn to the squad of players Vincent Del Bosque’s will take with him to Poland and the Ukraine.
The season is almost at it’s end and the players have done all they can during the 2011 season to convince the former Real Madrid boss to take them on the plane in a bid to retain the European Championship trophy; in the process winning their third successive major tournament.
Certain players have their places cemented; players such as Iker Casillas and Xavi, but what about players like Fernando Torres, who has suffered from lack of goals and form this season?
Here, I will try to outline the candidates for each position and who we could see lining up for Spain against Italy, Ireland and Croatia in the group stage.
Goalkeeper: Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas is the undisputed number one, but Spain have an embarrassment of riches in this position. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina of Liverpool will backup Casillas, but the duo are certainly goalkeepers that would start for the majority of teams participating in the tournament.
Right Back: Sergio Ramos is the usual choice at right back but has recently played at centreback when Carles Puyol has suffered through injuries. The deputy is usually Alvaro Arbeloa from Real Madrid, but don’t discount Athletic Bilbao’s Andoni Iraola, who has consistently turned in good performances for some years now.
Centre Back: A position of slight concern in my opinion. Gerard Pique has had a inconsistent year – he hasn’t looked interested on occasion whilst his partner in crime at the Camp Nou, Puyol, also has had well publicised issues with his knees. When both are on form and fit, there are few better centre back partnerships in international football. If not, then we may see Ramos shift into the middle as mentioned earlier, or defensive midfielders Javi Martinez and Sergio Busquets can drop back into defence. Youngsters Alvaro Dominguez (Atletico Madrid) and Alberto Botia are outside bets, while Raul Albiol has rarely seen first team action at Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho and would be an unlikely candidate.
Left Back: Since Joan Capdevila moved to Benfica he has barely seen the pitch, resulting in his omission from the Spanish national team. Having occupied the position for so long, the time has come to replace him. Valencia’s Jordi Alba currently holds the position after impressive performances for Unai Emery’s side, while Malaga’s Nacho Monreal could be in with a shout. Liverpool’s Jose Enrique isn’t fancied by Del Bosque and has yet to be called up. It would take a surprise if the former-Newcastle defender made the squad.
Defensive Midfield: Xabi Alonso will almost certainly hold a position in front of the back four, while the aforementioned Javi Martinez and Busquets should be on the plane too. Villarreal’s Bruno Soriano has two caps but with his last one dating back almost a year, it would be a shock to see him in the squad. You can never underestimate the role of the defensive midfielders in Del Bosque’s Spain side, as they create the platform for attacks in the 4-2-3-1 system.
Central/Attacking Midfield: Ahead of the two defensive midfielders we find Xavi, Barcelona’s puppeteer who is the key cog in the Spanish team. The players to back him up will probably be Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, also of Barcelona. In the same situation as the goalkeeping position, Fabregas and Alcantara would start for most teams in the tournament, yet in this generation of Spanish players they normally find themselves consigned to the bench.
Wingers: Andres Iniesta will be used as a winger in Del Bosque’s system, but not your typical ‘hugging the touchline’ type winger. He will come infield to allow Sergio Ramos space for his gallivanting runs forward from full back. Sevilla’s Jesus Navas and Santi Cazorla of Malaga are in contention, but also look out for Athletic’s Iker Muniain to make a late charge for a spot. Muniain has impressed during Bilbao’s sensational Europa League run and is one of the stars of the future for Spain. Juan Mata could find himself starting on the left hand side as Pedro’s form has dipped this year, but David Silva is also a candidate in a similar role to Iniesta – tucking infield and allowing the full back to charge on.
Striker: This depends on how Del Bosque uses the position. Silva has been used in a ‘False 9’ role before but that has been when David Villa has played on the left hand side. Villa is now injured and in a race against time to prove his fitness before the tournament. Fernando Llorente is surely the favourite now after another impressive goalscoring season, leaving the beleaguered Fernando Torres (despite his goal at the Camp Nou), Roberto Soldado and Alvaro Negredo to fight it out. Soldado has only recently won his first call up in five years despite hitting 34 goals in 62 games for Valencia over the last two years. He came on as a half time substitute against Venezuela in a friendly, only to score a second half hat-trick. Soldado will surely be on the plane.
This is how I think Del Bosque could line his team up against Italy on Sunday, 10 June. If David Villa can prove his fitness then he may play on that left hand side, but Mata has been in great form for Chelsea this season and deserves a place in the team. With options like Muniain, Cesc, Thiago, Soldado and Silva on the bench, they have so much quality in the squad that you instantly make them favourites to retain the trophy.Follow @icentrocampista