Spain vs. Bolivia: 6 Things We Learned

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2014

Spain vs. Bolivia: 6 Things We Learned

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    Spain cruised to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Bolivia at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium on Friday night as La Roja stepped their World Cup defence up a gear. 

    In the first of two pre-World Cup friendlies, second-half goals from Fernando Torres and Andres Iniesta delivered a routine win for Vicente del Bosque's men.

    Playing without any members of the Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid squads, much of the interest in Friday's game fixated on how Spain would line up and whether Del Bosque would look to test peripheral options.

    Predictably, the manager evenly distributed playing time amongst his star-studded squad while also allowing less-experienced players such as Alberto Moreno and Ander Iturraspe opportunities to impress.

    Across the following sides, we examine six things we learned from Spain's triumph on the night.

Santi Cazorla Is Ahead of Juan Mata for Final Midfield Position

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    Based on the composition of Vicente del Bosque's provisional 30-man squad, it seems Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata are fighting it out for the final attacking midfield position ahead of Spain's trip to Brazil.

    After Friday night's encounter with Bolivia, it's clear that the Arsenal maestro is leading the race.

    As the drifting player of Del Bosque's midfield three, the 29-year-old was the most influential Spaniard on the night until being substituted in the second half, regularly causing the visitors trouble in the final third. Cazorla's ability to work in tight spaces and push into the box to create scoring chances was a particularly impressive component of his performance in Sevilla.

    Indeed, perhaps what separates Cazorla from Mata most is his versatility. Comfortable with both feet and able to play in the middle or on either flank, the diminutive midfielder gives his manager more options than his Manchester United counterpart.

    Consequently, Cazorla looks well ahead in the scrap for the final Spanish midfield ticket to this year's World Cup.

Vicente Del Bosque Appears Reluctant to Discard Misfiring Fernando Torres

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    Fernando Torres has endured a succession of miserable seasons since moving to Stamford Bridge to join Chelsea in 2011.

    Yet, Vicente del Bosque seems to own a special connection with the former Liverpool star and appears reluctant to discard the misfiring forward.

    Perhaps it's not surprising, given that La Roja's boss has used mutual trust as a cornerstone in his managerial success, dating back to his time at Real Madrid between 1999 and 2003. 

    Consequently, Friday night's encounter with Bolivia felt like a significant occasion for Torres. It was as though Del Bosque was looking for any hint of form that could possibly justify the striker's selection in his final 23-man squad.

    The performance put forward by Torres was hardly outstanding. A goal from the penalty spot was secured, but it came amid a collection of squandered chances in open play.

    However, there continues to be a sense that Del Bosque feels at ease with Torres' presence in the team. On form alone, of course, it's difficult to see the Chelsea forward going to Brazil.

    But Torres has typically excelled in a Spanish uniform and could be given a World Cup lifeline by the manager. 

Lack of Raw Athleticism Will Be a Problem for Spain in Brazil

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    Although Spain won comfortably on the night, the team's lack of dynamic athleticism was an obvious problem in a rather stagnant opening half.

    As expected, the Spaniards dominated possession and shared the ball at will in front of their Bolivian opponents. But the inability of the midfielders to glide past the visitors while on the ball meant Bolivia were rarely forced out of shape in the first 45 minutes. 

    That changed when Andres Iniesta replaced Xavi as La Roja's primary midfielder after the break. In conjunction with David Silva, the Barcelona superstar provided Vicente del Bosque's outfit with sharper movement in the second period, which saw the home team create significantly more chances as the game wore on.

    However, the team's difficulty in conjuring an array of genuine scoring chances prior to Iniesta's arrival was a cause for concern. 

    Most notable was Spain's inability to burst into space when Bolivia lost possession on the few times the ball was in their control. 

    Against more proficient opponents, that struggle to break a line and force teams out of shape could temper the defending champions' attacking capacity.

Alberto Moreno Will Be a Fine Backup for Jordi Alba

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    There were a couple of nervy moments in the opening stages of Friday night's match for hometown hero Alberto Moreno.

    However, from the 10-minute mark onward, the emerging left-back was among the more impressive performers on the night for La Roja.

    With little to do in defence, the 21-year-old used his speed to burst forward down the left flank, aiding Santi Cazorla and Pedro in Spain's predominantly one-sided attack. 

    What stood out about Moreno's play most was his ability to draw a defender away from the ball-carrier with surging diagonal runs on the left side of the penalty area. On a number of occasions, the Sevilla star's movement created shooting chances for Cazorla and Pedro. 

    Of course, Jordi Alba will assume the starting left-back position for Vicente del Bosque in Brazil. But in Moreno, the Barcelona ace will have a fine understudy. 

Vicente Del Bosque Should Take Daniel Carvajal to Brazil

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    Daniel Carvajal didn't play on Friday. He wasn't even on the bench.

    However, the one-sided nature of Spain's attack against Bolivia suggested the Real Madrid right-back would be a useful inclusion in Vicente del Bosque's final 23-man World Cup squad.

    While Cesar Azpilicueta is a fine defender, the Chelsea full-back doesn't offer the same pace and width going forward that Carvajal can provide. Indeed, that may have been accentuated by Jose Mourinho's use of Azpilicueta on his non-preferred side at Stamford Bridge.

    Consequently, Del Bosque should include Carvajal in his World Cup squad to provide an alternative threat, should certain opponents prove difficult to break down.

    On Friday night, the 22-year-old would have further stretched the tight Bolivian formation, given that Spain only looked threatening on the left with Pedro, Santi Cazorla and Alberto Moreno. For La Roja to operate optimally, width is needed to open channels for the nation's gifted midfielders.

    Carvajal could deliver exactly that on the right-hand side if used as a contrasting option behind Azpilicueta.

Andres Iniesta Is Spain's Undisputed On-Field Leader

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    Xavi and Iker Casillas remain the most experienced and decorated players in this Spain squad, but Andres Iniesta is La Roja's driving force on the pitch. 

    Since scoring the winning goal at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the 30-year-old has continued to grow in prominence for club and country, just as Pep Guardiola had once predicted early in Iniesta's career.

    On Friday against Bolivia, the identity of Del Bosque's most outstanding player was blatantly obvious.

    From the moment the midfielder replaced his Barcelona teammate at the beginning of the second half, the Spain machine became decidedly more threatening. What were laboured buildups in the opening period became probing forays forward after the break.

    Tellingly, it was Iniesta who broke through Bolivia and scored from outside the penalty area on one of the few occasions when Spain waltzed through a congested midfield. 

    As his team's brightest star, Iniesta's performances will have an enormous bearing on Spain's success in Brazil.