El Centrocampista

From the old to the new: who can fill the void in years to come for La Roja?

Cesc Fabregas goal

With excitement levels reaching fever pitch in Elcentrocampista towers ahead of the start of the 2014 World Cup tomorrow, we take a look at some of the newer faces in the Spanish squad who have made the trip to Brazil.

For approximately the last decade or so, Spain have relied heavily on talented players from the country’s two most glorified clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona. 
Players including Casillas, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta and David Villa have been a fundamental part of a history-making national side, one that has secured back-to-back European Championships (2008 & 2012) and La Roja’s first ever World Cup in 2010.

Yet all good things must come to an end and it is becoming increasingly likely that this World Cup will prove to the end of the road for some of stalwarts of the Spanish team, in particular Xavi and Iniesta, as this could be their last ever major tournament representing their country of whom they have done extremely proud.

However, despite the emotion of seeing such a talented crop of players playing their last minutes on the international stage, the Spanish manager Vicente Del Bosque has included some new faces in his 23-man squad for Brazil as well as keeping tabs on the highly rated youngsters in the under 21’s ranks. The notable additions being David De Gea, Raul Albiol, Cesar Azpilicueta, Juanfran, Koke and Diego costa.

In terms of Goalkeepers, Spain have always seemed to have strength-in-depth and that has certainly continued. After missing out in the European Championship squad in 2012, David De Gea performances for Manchester United this year have secured his place in Del Bosque’s 23-man squad for Brazil behind Casillas and Pepe Reina. He may not get a chance to prove his skills at this World Cup, but at the age of 23 it is expected that he will become Spain’s number one for years to come.

The news that Carlos Puyol was retiring from all forms of football at the end of the recent La Liga season certainly shocked the world, but it has opened a window of opportunity for a potential up and coming centre back to burst there way into the Spanish set-up. The centre back partnership will undoubtedly be Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique but Napoli centre half Raul Albiol will be looking force his way into the reckoning. After a successful first season in Italy, the Coppa Italia winner a worthy replacement for either of the duo if Del Bosque sees fit.

Full-backs Juanfran and Cesar Azpilicueta have also deservedly gained places in the squad. Right-back Juanfran looks like he could be Del Bosque’s first choice for this World Cup after a successful season with Atletico Madrid, in which he won La Liga as well as a runners up medal in the Champions League. Meanwhile Azpilicueta has had a solid season with Chelsea, keeping veteran Ashley Cole out the side and possibly challenging Jordi Alba for that left-back berth in Brazil.

Midfield has long been the key area for Spain with their neat and intricate one touch passing. The likes of Fabregas, Cazorla, Busquets and Silva still have a few major tournaments ahead of them, but for Iniesta, Xavi and Xabi Alonso it is nearly the end of the road. One player looking to fill that berth is Atletico Madrid’s young midfielder Koke who has flourished this season. Wanted by Barcelona, Koke’s exceptional passing range in addition to his physical attributes could make him the perfect fit for the ever evolving Spanish game.

Success is in his blood after winning La Liga with Atleti and he certainly has the taste for the big occasion, after scoring the winner in the Champions League quarter final against Spanish counterparts Barcelona. He is not the finished product just yet, but at the raw age of 22, there is hope and almost expectancy that Koke can be on the level of Xavi and Iniesta in years to come.

Finally, the striking department, perhaps the one area of the Spanish squad that has raised some question marks in recent years. With Fernando Torres still struggling to find anything near his best form, Del Bosque has sometimes opted to play the Cesc Fabregas as the ‘false 9’ instead of starting with an out and out striker.

However this could well change in Brazil, with the introduction of Diego Costa to the Spanish squad. The Brazilian-come-Spaniard should be in his element in his home nation, and if he can take this season’s form with him, he could well fire La Roja to another international success. The 25-year old finished a La Liga winning season with 27 goals and could quite easily be the focal point of the Spanish attack so several tournaments to come.

Seen by many as a transition phase for the Spanish national team, just how much would the outgoing Spanish stars love one final swansong in Brazil.

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