I fear for the fortunes of my country in the next World Cup. Because while we all know that Spain have always had the quality of players, do they still have the hunger?
Having won everything over the past six years, maintaining the standard is very difficult, as Brazil showed them when they dished out a lesson in attitude in the final of the Confederations Cup back in June this year. It would be wrong to suggest that they are not motivated, but the fact is that all sides, especially winning ones, need to be recycled on occasion.
Vicente del Bosque has committed himself to the national cause until 2016, which is good news because since he took control, he has changed about one-third of the squad before every tournament. The flip side of that, however, is that he, like so many others, ultimately relies on the tried and trusted, or what Johan Cruyff used to describe as the "sacred cows", to do the business.
So who’s he going to pick, and how will his team play?
Maybe it’s time to be brave and hand over to a new generation. I wouldn’t be unhappy to see an all-Atletico line-up with Koke, Diego Costa and David Villa as the squad's forward picks. It would certainly allow the playing of a more direct game without precluding the option of playing the possession formula. Maybe del Bosque feels the time is right to move forward from the possession game, to evolve, and that is probably why Diego Costa is very likely to be called up.
At the back, Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos have been solid enough without setting the world on fire, and Jordi Alba should be an automatic choice as left-back with Álvaro Arbeloa on the right for defensive purposes and Juanfran or even Daniel Carvajal for a more attacking option.
In goal, Iker Casillas would love to finish his international career in Brazil, although should Victor Valdes recover his level after injury, he certainly deserves to get the nod.
In midfield, Xavi would also like to conclude his international career in Brazil, but is what he offers Barcelona at the moment what Spain needs? I have my doubts. Andres Iniesta needs to work harder defensively to play in the Xavi role, but with the ball he has as much skill as anyone who plays there.
Busquets is favourite for the holding midfield place while the selection of Cesc Fabregas would suggest a look to a more direct approach. Personally, I think it would be a good pick to place him alongside Diego Costa and Koke, even though that would take the emphasis of the team away from Iniesta.
Up front, in addition to the three previously mentioned, you can add to the mix Álvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente, both scoring freely for Manchester City and Juventus, respectively. The fact that Spain sometimes don’t even always use a striker could well mean that del Bosque will eventually decide on just taking two front men.
Germany, Argentina and of course the hosts, Brazil, have as much talent in their squads as Spain. Belgium also have a very good squad, and don’t ever rule out the Italians. The result is probably the most open World Cup ever, and one where, in all honesty, I can’t see Spain doing better than a place in the semi-finals. Then my dream would be for an Argentina vs. Brazil final.
Now that would be amazing.
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