Why Vicente Del Bosque Is Under Most Pressure for Spain at the World Cup

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2014

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 29:  Head coach Vicente Del Bosque of Spain faces the media during a press conference ahead of their international friendly match against Bolivia at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium on May 29, 2014 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

There's a serenity built on precedent that surrounds Spain's manager, Vicente del Bosque.

In stature, the 63-year-old has few peers in the current clique of football management. His composure is almost unrivalled. His ability to unlock a side's potential is revered. 

In the record books, he remains the most successful leader of the world's preeminent club, Real Madrid, in the modern era. And, with delightful grace, he's the only manager in history to own the most sought-after triple crown, comprised of the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League titles. 

One could assume, then, that Del Bosque's time in Brazil is set to be burden-free. His legacy assured, with little left to prove, the Spaniard could be afforded the luxury of merely enjoying his conduction of the planet's finest footballing outfit this summer.

After all, given the team, the record, the dynasty: Is there anyone in the world game who has it better than Del Bosque right now?

Curiously, however, it feels a little more paradoxical than that.

A World Cup defence hasn't been successful since 1962. Only Italy's Vittorio Pozzo has two World Cup titles as a manager. Four major international triumphs in six years is simply unprecedented. 

Where there's opportunity, there's pressure. And right now, Del Bosque owns the chance to lead this La Roja generation to the summit of football's pantheon. 

COSTA DO SAUIPE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 06:  Spain coach Vicente del Bosque places the World Cup trophy on a plinth on stage before the Final Draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at Costa do Sauipe Resort on December 6, 2013 in Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazi
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Typically, that pressure would lay upon the players. But somehow this feels different. Del Bosque's selection of his squad has heaped added responsibility on the manager, increasing the magnitude of possible consequences for the Spanish boss.

Ironically, it's Del Bosque's characteristic conservatism that has taken a gamble for this World Cup. Throughout his tenure, the decorated leader's trust and loyalty for his trophy-winning stars has been unbreakable, the defining trait of his rule. 

But in maintaining his belief in those principles, the 63-year-old has created another set of challenges for his team. In opting for familiarity, Del Bosque has deprived his squad some of the dynamism of variety. 

Of course, the manager's rationale is profoundly clear.

"One of the fundamental issues is the good relationship that exists within the group," Del Bosque told World Soccer's Jamie Rainbow in 2012. "I have been fortunate to have a good group made up of nice people. It is important to reinforce the relations that exists between the players—that was a key part of our success in recent years."

Del Bosque possesses an innate feel for his Spain team. This is his way, his recipe for success.

But it's still a gamble. 

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 30:  Fernando Torres of Spain celebrates after scoring the opening goal during an international friendly match between Spain and Bolivia at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 30, 2014 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty
David Ramos/Getty Images

On form, Fernando Torres shouldn't be in the squad. David Villa is fortunate in that regard, too. Sitting at home watching the action from afar will be Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo—two men who could have added a different ingredient to Spain.  

In midfield, Juan Mata's inclusion was a surprise, while Pepe Reina seems to be selected merely as a mentor. 

While the team's exalted core of gifted phenomenons has been universally lauded, it must be remembered that it has often been those who add contrast to this Spain team—Llorente against Portugal in 2010, Jesus Navas and Pedro in the World Cup final of that year, Jordi Alba at Euro 2012who have provided telling contributions. 

Torres, Villa, Mata and Reina are, however, typical Del Bosque's selections: They're chosen because of their familiarity with the team's methods, their cohesion with teammates and their ability to seamlessly slot into the harmony of the group. Club form, personal records and stardom carry a lesser significance to Del Bosque, which are facts he's been happy to state.

According to Miguel Delaney of The Football Pantheon, La Roja's boss once described his philosophy by saying "[the] idea was that the dressing room should shed its image of having too many 'stars' and be more down to earth, made up of people who play football for a living, get on well with each other and are unaffected by fame."

In an managerial era becoming increasingly defined by tactical acumen and identity, Del Bosque has gallantly bucked the trend. Unlike the tactical ingenuity belonging to a man like Jose Mourinho, the former Real Madrid leader is a manager of men, egos and relationships.

"He has a very good brain in assessing what kind of footballers his players are, what kind of people we are, how we all work together. He is scrupulously fair-minded… his skill is in subtly weighing up how the team could tick," Steve McManaman once said, according to Miguel Delaney of The Football Pantheon

Del Bosque's squad in Brazil mirrors that mentality.

But the onus is now on him to make it work, to ensure his unwavering trust for those seemingly borderline selections doesn't impede the threat posed by the team. It seems odd to suggest that La Roja's players are under less pressure than their manager. Yet, it's Del Bosque's faith in his regulars that has done that.

LAS ROZAS DE MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 28:  Juan Mata of Spain jokes with head coach Vicente Del Bosque of Spain during a training session at Ciudad del Futbol on May 28, 2014 in Las Rozas de Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Make no mistake, mind you, Spain is still the most talented team in the tournament, but the sum of the squad's parts isn't quite what it could be—and Del Bosque will know that. Confidently, he can point to his glittering record for proof that his throwback approach does indeed work. 

However, if the Spaniards can't defend their title in Brazil, it will be the manager's decisions at the selection table that will be in focus. His ill-fated "blind faith," as it will be named by his critics, will form the narrative.

Whether rightly or wrongly, that's the reality of it.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  Jesus Navas of Spain and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst of the Netherlands battle for the ball during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 i
Lars Baron/Getty Images

You can already picture the ifs and buts being thrown around if that were to happen, the other options that Del Bosque "should" have opted for: But what if Navas was there to stretch teams? Daniel Carvajal could have given them more attacking punch on the right. Llorente or Negredo could have overpowered that defence. Ander Iturraspe would have given them more grunt.

These are the stakes for Del Bosque. It's why he'll carry the burden of pressure for Spain.

For so long, the trust and faith he's shown towards those under him has been the hallmark of his managerial success. For so long, his focus on harmony, balance and humility has been admired. 

As the conductor of perhaps the most inspiring international team of all time, it would be delightful to see Del Bosque's holistic philosophy triumph once more. 

But if it doesn't, the broader view will be that the trust stretched too far.