Defending champions Spain will start their final World Cup preparations with a friendly against Bolivia on Friday, as manager Vicente del Bosque is still putting together his final squad of 23 players who will join him on the plane to Brazil.
Unlike most teams, Spain are yet to announce their final squad, and Friday's friendly against Bolivia will go a long way to determine the status of several fringe players.
Bolivia were one of the weaker nations in South American qualifying and shouldn't present the world champions with much difficulty, but all eyes will be on individual performances more than they will be on the final result of this match.
Date: Friday, May 30.
Time: 9 p.m. BST/4 p.m. ET.
Venue: Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla.
TV info and live stream: The match will be broadcast by Premier Sports, with mobile coverage available through the Premier Player.
Arguably no team in all of football is as spoiled for talent as Spain, so manager Del Bosque's inability to come up with a favoured squad of 23 until this point is perhaps understandable.
The team's biggest question marks are focused on the attacking third, where injury to Diego Costa has made Del Bosque's job a little more difficult. As reported by beIN SPORTS, the veteran manager admitted he was doubtful whether or not the Atletico striker would make this year's World Cup:
"I'm not sure Costa will make it. We've still got time but now it's in the hands of the doctors and the medical team. We have to be cautious."
Those words are a far cry from the optimism around the player's health earlier in the week, and even if Costa is able to return to health in time, a lack of fitness could severely limit the player's effectiveness.
The match against Bolivia will give several other strikers a chance to convince the manager they could adequately replace Costa, and Fernando Torres is already staking his claim, as reported by Goal.com:
I've never thought that I had played my last game. I am excited to come to the national team, here I've been very happy and I feel in good conditions for the World Cup.
You always have doubts when you're a time without coming, but the other day when the coach gave the list I was very excited waiting for my name.
My dream is the same as when I made my debut. I was prepared to come or not come, after a very strange year, in which I played little, but fortunately I am here and I will fight to be in the latest list.
The Chelsea man isn't a regular starter in the Premier League but has proven to be an excellent fit for Del Bosque's system in the past, thanks to a healthy work rate and solid ability in the passing game.
David Villa, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente will all be eyeing the starting position, and all three are coming off excellent seasons for some of the world's best teams.
Llorente in particular enjoyed a great second half to the season with Juventus, and his imposing physique could give Spain the kind of physical presence they're still hoping to get from Costa.
Via La Masia, Gerard Deulofeu will also be adding his name to the mix:
Deulofeu called up by Del Bosque for Spain's friendly against Bolivia on 30th May. pic.twitter.com/zAW3TNhLT0— La Masia (@Youngcules) May 26, 2014
The Barcelona youngster was solid for Everton during the 2013-14 campaign and has the versatility to play both as a winger in midfield and all over the attacking line. A strong performance against Bolivia could see Deulofeu receive his chance from Del Bosque, something which could only help his Barcelona future.
Bolivia finished second-to-last in the South American qualifiers and shouldn't challenge Spain all that much. Del Bosque and the fans won't learn much about the team on Friday—rather, Bolivia will give the team a chance to grow comfortable playing together and score some morale-boosting goals.
However, the front-line can't afford to struggle in the absence of Costa. The Atletico forward had a phenomenal season but was severely hampered by injury in the last few weeks, and rushing him back at this stage would be a panic move that wouldn't end well.
Torres and company need a strong performance on Friday, not just to boost their own chances of making the final squad but to make sure people don't start to question whether the defending champions can function without Costa.