Euro 2012: Del Bosque gambles by including Torres in Spain squad
Tom Wellman looks at Vicente Del Bosque's 23-man Spain squad for Euro 2012, with Roberto Soldado the surprise omission
Torres’ inclusion is a gamble
Including Fernando Torres in Spain’s squad has proved a controversial decision across Europe as no one knows just how he will perform in the next game. Less prolific than Gylfi Sigurdsson in twice as many league games, Torres has struggled massively since moving to Chelsea and had been dropped from the Spanish squad for the friendly with Venezuela in February. Adding to the risky nature of his inclusion is that David Villa is absent through injury, and Roberto Soldado, who has 27 goals this season, misses out as a result. A Champions League win and a morale-propelling draw against Barcelona, in which Torres scored, could boost his confidence but sadly without Paul the Octopus, no one will really know how he will fare until he runs out for La Roja in Poland and Ukraine. Among the others selected, Athletic Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente will be relishing his opportunity to shine if he is ahead of Torres in the pecking order. Fatigue from a marathon season as a lone striker could set him and Spain back, however, with only Sevilla’s Álvaro Negredo and Pedro alternative centre-forward choices
A plethora of world class goalkeepers
Historically Spain have always been well-endowed in this position, and the current triad of goalkeepers would easily grace any other national team in the world and make the number one shirt their own. Iker Casillas heads the group, as he has done for what seems an eternity, and also leads the whole nation, wearing the captain’s armband with pride. Skipper for the previous two triumphant tournaments, his position will come under little scrutiny despite the outstanding candidates behind him in Barcelona’s Víctor Valdes and Liverpool’s Pepe Reina. Extraordinarily, Valdes has played just seven times for his country behind Casillas’ astonishing 127 appearances. And Ben Foster feels hard done by…
Puyol’s absence will be felt in defence
The headlines concerning the Spanish squad have focused predominantly on the missing central defender and absent striker. Carles Puyol sadly had to withdraw from the squad a couple of weeks ago due to injury despite having a dominant season at the back with Barcelona. His presence and organisation of the back four will be a great loss to Spain who will need to re-think their defence. Gerard Pique and one other will more than likely begin at centre-half against Italy in Gdansk. This could mean reverting Sergio Ramos to the centre from right-back. If not, Javi Martínez or Raúl Albiol will receive their chance to impress Vicente del Bosque, who experimented with Ramos and Albiol in the recent friendly against Serbia, though Martinez and Pique were both on Copa del Rey duty. Jordi Alba appears to be Spain’s future left back after some confident and attacking displays in his early international career. A starting role in his first major tournament will be a test of discipline for the youngster, who does love to bomb forwards regularly. On the opposing side, Álvaro Arbeloa and Juanfran will profit if Ramos is converted to centre-back and are both apt replacements – Arbeloa is more so considering his international experience.
Spain’s telepathic midfield
Spain favours a five-man midfield and has a mouth-watering array of worthy candidates to select from. Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso will command the centre of the park and drop deep, attack, spray passes and drift into awkward positions where they are difficult to defend against. Teams will defend deep and we have seen it prove difficult for Spain to break down such stubborn defences, which is where their wide men come in. David Silva, Juan Mata, Seville’s Jesús Navas, Santi Cazorla and Barcelona’s Pedro Rodríguez are all outstanding wingers who can give any full-back a torrid time and create chances aplenty. Del Bosque has a difficult but enviable task in selecting his starting two. Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fàbregas might force their way into the team as the competition progresses and are more-than-able to add to the immense talent of the Spanish national squad. Lest we forget it was Fàbregas who laid on Iniesta’s winner in South Africa. Since living his dream and joining Barcelona, he has scored freely and will add to the telepathic synchronisation between the Barcelona spine of the Spanish national squad.