El Centrocampista

Spain’s squad is shaped for success

Spain continued their preparation for this summer’s World Cup finals with a 1-0 win against Italy in the Vincente Calderon last week. The Spanish side’s quality has never been in question, and with a squad brought up in the age of ‘tiki-taka’ football, there may be no solution to stop them empowering themselves on the tournaments strongest.

Del Bosque’s squad selection for last Wednesday’s game in Madrid didn’t provide any real surprises.  Atlético Madrid’s Diego Costa, who was ruled out of November’s friendlies with Equatorial Guinea and South Africa with a leg injury, finally made his much anticipated debut after pledging his allegiance to the country of his residency back in October.

 14 of the 22 man squad for the Italy friendly appeared in the last World Cup and this may highlight Vicente Del Bosque’s fear of moving the squad on with the addition of youth. The positive thing for Del Bosque however, is that many of the 2010 squad were ahead of their prime when they ran out victorious 4 years ago, which gives them an advantage going into the summer. The argument that could be made in the manager’s case for his selection is that at the age of 63 this quite possibly could be Del Bosque’s last world cup, or national team competition for that matter, so there is every reason for him to stick with a winning formula and to go out on top instead of putting his focuses into a future side.

 The selection for the Italy friendly also highlights the high profile players likely to miss out on the plane to Brazil. There looks like there will be no space for both Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, and more surprisingly it looks as if their all-time record goal scorer David Villa is set to miss out on a 3rd successive world cup. The performances of Diego Costa for Atlético Madrid this season has outshone those of his club teammate Villa’s, which could lead to the 32 year olds omission from the final 23 men. It won’t just be Villa’s experience that is likely to go a miss in Brazil and Carles Puyol seemed to rule himself out of contention in his press conference on Tuesday. However, it was never likely for him to have been a serious contender for a position due to his lack of action this season.

 When looking at experienced members of the Spanish side who may miss out, many pundits and critics would have expected Iker Casillas to be one of those casualties after appearing sparingly for Real Madrid over the past 2 seasons. After starting Wednesday’s friendly those notions were dispelled however, indicating that he will likely be going as number one, and not just a squad member, which is a much needed vote of confidence for the Spain caption as his 24 year stay with Real looks as if it’s coming to an end after being dislodged by fellow Spaniard Diego Lopez. Despite Lopez being in the form of his career and with David De Gea as the lead contender to be Casillas’ long term successor, Del Bosque’s faith in his chosen 3, Casillas, Victor Valdes and Napoli’s Pepe Reina, remains sustained.

Referring back to the likely omission of Fernando Torres, from a British perspective, it would be more than understandable for Spain to opt out of taking him, but if you look at his record in major tournaments, his experience of success could be invaluable going into the summer and he could be used in the same way that Germany use Miroslav Klose by introducing him from the bench, and with Spain he looks far less isolated than he has at Chelsea in the past 3 years. Torres won the golden boot at Euro 2012 on the back of a relatively poor season for Chelsea, and scored 5 goals at last summer’s Confederations Cup making him joint top scorer with Brazil’s Fred, indicating that despite his club form, it doesn’t seem to have a long standing affect going into a major tournament, and this is why he is still a dangerous option for the Spanish.

 If the 14 world cup winners were to go to Brazil in the 23 man squad, they may provide the experience to go the distance that the other 31 sides don’t have. Del Bosque is part of a unique list of managers that have won 3 international tournaments, so with him at the helm they are prepared for success more than their other competitors.

 As fans, we like to romanticise the idea that any team can go out and win the world cup. A list of the tournaments winners since its inauguration dispels this notion, so when you look at it realistically the main contenders are Los Rojo’s, Brazil and Germany. No other squad shares the depth these 3 squads have, nor is there the abundance of talent these sides possess.

 Spain’s preparation for the tournament since the beginning of the qualifying campaign very dominant and convincing, with the minor mishaps such as the draw at home to Finland in qualifying, their loss to Brazil in the final of the Confederations Cup, and their shock defeat to South Africa in a friendly back in November. Despite that, their past successes must certainly solidify them as favourites and sharing Group B with Holland should not be enough to stop them reaching the knock out phases. If key players remain in form and fit then we could be seeing Spain level Italy and Brazil’s record of winning successive world cups, undoubtedly making them the greatest side of the modern generation.

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