El Centrocampista

La Roja in bid to create history

Spain 2010 World Cup celebration

A couple of weeks ago Vicente Del Bosque named his final 23-man squad who will endeavour to bring the country back-to-back World Cup triumphs in Brazil.

Such has been their domination in recent years, La Roja who were once considered perennial underachievers on the international stage, are now expected to come home from Brazil still World champions.

Spoiled since their success in South Africa in 2010, hopes are high amongst Spaniards that their country can become the first team since Brazil in 1962, to retain the Jules Rimet trophy.

The nation expects and so do the players. Despite being foolishly written off by some quarters in the media, a bunch of players who for the majority know very little other than success would consider it a failure if they didn’t bring back the trophy to the Mediterranean.

The final 23 selected by Del Bosque are:

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David de Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Juanfran Torres (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Juan Mata (Manchester United)

Forwards: Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)

Perhaps the most notable omissions from the squad are long-time right-back stalwart Alvaro Arbeloa. The Real Madrid man has been out for several months of the season due to injury and now has seen his place been snapped up by rival Juanfran of city rivals Atletico. In Juanfran’s case, he has had a magnificent season being part of Atleti’s title-winning side and can say he has very much played his way into the squad.

Manchester City pair Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo can feel very unlucky at being left at home. Navas, who was a vital impact sub in the 2010 World Cup and 2014 Euros wins, wasn’t one hundred percent fit according to Del Bosque, and his burning pace will be missed as it helped late on in games to unlock tight and tired opposition defences.

Negredo who had a good first season in England, started on fire then tailed off somewhat after the new year after a shoulder injury. Fellow frontman Fernando Llorente, who had the complete opposite of season’s to that of Negredo can also count himself unfortunate to be left out. The Juventus man struggled at the beginning of the season to adjust to Serie A but hit the back of the net regularly towards the end.

Fernando Torres is one who always divides opinion, especially since the striker’s move to Chelsea. Again, he hasn’t convinced at Stamford Bridge, yet finds himself selected ahead of the likes of the aforementioned duo of Llorente and Negredo. Maybe it’s a case of Del Bosque going with the tried and trusted. After all, Torres did win the Golden Boot at Euro 2012 last time out.

It is pretty set in stone how this Spanish side will play, the infamous tika-taka style, and truth be told they know no other way. However the inclusion of Diego Costa in the squad means that if Del Bosque chooses to go with the traditional number 9, it will add another attacking dimension to a team already stacked with attacking options. A plan B, or C(osta) if you like.

The team will be expected to not only qualify from the group, but also top it too. The biggest test will be from the Chilean’s who will use the high line and press high up the park and look to hit the Spain backline with the pace of Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas – two players who will be very well known to the Spanish contingent.

In an intriguing looking group, the Netherlands in the first game will of course be a rematch of the final four years ago. It’s a very young Dutch side especially in defence with their main threat looking like coming from Arjen Robben and his lightning-quick pace, and the goal scoring prowess of Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie.

Australia are expected to be the whipping boys of the group and even the most optimistic of Aussies will admit that they will find it extremely tough with 34-year-old Tim Cahill being their stand out player. That said, they have produced some shock results in World Cup tournaments gone by, and Spain must guard against any potentially complacency that may slip in. Remember, La Roja did lose to Switzerland in 2010, before going on to win the crown.

It will also be the international swansong for many of this all-conquering squad. David Villa has already stated his intention to retire from national team duties after the tournament and the likes of Xabi Alonso, Xavi, and maybe even Andres Iniesta may not have another World Cup tournament in them.

Yet, many bookmakers and pundits have totally written off their chances of retaining the trophy, it’s quite a bold prediction given the strength of the pool Del Bosque has to pick from. You only have to look at the players who didn’t make the 23 to see the evidence of that. In a season in the club game where tikki takka has been perceived as dead, it’s up to La Roja to go out in Brazil and prove the critics wrong.

The coach expects, the fans expect. Now it’s up to the players to deliver.

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