Why Cesar Azpilicueta Must Be Handed a World Cup Starting Spot for Spain

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistJune 1, 2014

Cesar Azpilicueta is in excellent form.
Cesar Azpilicueta is in excellent form.David Ramos/Getty Images

Cesar Azpilicueta is going to play a key role in Spain's attempt to retain the World Cup this summer in Brazil.

The Chelsea full-back only has six caps for his country so far but should be a first-choice pick for Vicente del Bosque.

From merely fulfilling defensive duties, the role of full-back has changed drastically over time.

Full-backs are now capable of running games from their position. They are expected to support attacks and be the "free" man on top of their defensive work.

Ashley Cole was the best at it for several years, and Azpilicueta is the man who took his place in Jose Mourinho's Chelsea team last season.

Azpilicueta took Cole's place in Chelsea's team.
Azpilicueta took Cole's place in Chelsea's team.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

What's more, Azpilicueta was playing at left-back, rather than his usual right-back role. That versatility and his outstanding performances were enough to get him on the plane to Brazil.

And he should start for Spain in his natural position.

La Roja have a surplus of quality right-sided defenders at present. As well as Azpilicueta, Atletico Madrid's excellent Juanfran is in the squad for the World Cup. Real Madrid duo Alvaro Arbeloa and Dani Carvajal, both of whom would be solid selections if they had been needed, were omitted.

Juanfran will feel hard done by if he doesn't get to play at the tournament, particularly given his superb display against Chelsea last season.

Juanfran too, had an outstanding campaign.
Juanfran too, had an outstanding campaign.Michael Regan/Getty Images

In the second leg of the Champions League semi-final at Stamford Bridge, Juanfran was Atletico Madrid's key player.

He rampaged forward, helping to poke holes in Chelsea's defence and ensuring that Atletico progressed to the final. It was an off night for the Blues and Azpilicueta, who had been selected in an unfamiliar midfield role to offer extra support for Branislav Ivanovic.

All that said, Azplicueta's consistently excellent performances this season should be merited with the World Cup slot.

Playing at left-back has helped develop his defensive ability; his tackling is now second to none.

Azplicueta has progressed under Mourinho.
Azplicueta has progressed under Mourinho.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

During the friendly against Bolivia on Friday night, Azpilicueta acquitted himself well, with one excellent challenge drawing a repeated "bien, Azpilicueta, bien!" from Spanish TV channel Cuatro's commentators.

He also provided menace going forward, with one strike from outside the box hitting the post and another from close range being lashed into the side netting.

Azpilicueta scored a brilliant goal for Chelsea against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup this season, charging forward when he spotted an opportunity and dispatching the chance past the onrushing goalkeeper with ease.

After the Bolivia game, Azpilicueta said, per Inside Spanish Football:

I’m trying to do the best job I possibly can, it was a game that had plenty of scoring chances and we scored two. The team looked good. This year I played at left-back, the manager feels that I’ll help the team in this position, and I’m happy I can help out in a multitude of positions. I’ll play wherever the manager wants me. I’m coming from playing with the national team since I was 15 or 16, making the first team is the dream of every player who starts out in the lower tiers, it’s a dream to make it to the World Cup. I hope everyone comes in the best form possible.

While Juanfran is a fantastic player in his own right, Azpilicueta offers a little more, both defensively and offensively, even though the former is a converted winger.

He hasn't been able to show it in every match in Mourinho's defensive-minded Chelsea side, but Azpilicueta is a brilliant support player.

Azpilicueta cuts the mustard going forward too.
Azpilicueta cuts the mustard going forward too.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

We'll leave the final word to that man, Mourinho. He said, per the Daily Mail:

Azpilicueta is the kind of player I like a lot. I think a team with 11 Azpilicuetas probably could win the [Champions League] because football is not just about the pure talent. Football is also about character and personality and Azpilicueta has all those traces of a winning personality.