6 Key Selection Decisions for Spain Ahead of World Cup Clash with Chile

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

6 Key Selection Decisions for Spain Ahead of World Cup Clash with Chile

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Prior to Spain's World Cup opener against the Dutch, it seemed that Vicente del Bosque had only a small number of selection issues to iron out in his world champion La Roja outfit.

    That's not the case anymore, however.

    After their unfathomable annihilation at the hands of Louis van Gaal's men last Friday, Del Bosque has a raft of key decisions to ponder as his side prepares to take on Chile on Wednesday.

    What will worry Del Bosque most is that Jorge Sampaoli's team will set up to attack the Spaniards in the same manner as the Dutch. With their direct and aggressive approach, the Chileans possess the capacity to exploit the same weaknesses that were at fault in the defending champions' 1-5 collapse. 

    So how will La Roja's decorated manager respond to last Friday's humiliation?

    Across the following slides, we examine all of the selection headaches facing Del Bosque ahead of Wednesday's pivotal encounter with Chile. 

Does Iker Casillas Need to Be Replaced?

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    It would be foolish to pin Spain's defensive frailties against Netherlands on revered goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

    Indeed, the bulk of La Roja's issues against the rampant Dutch started far higher up the pitch.

    However, Casillas' dreadful error to gift Robin van Persie his team's fourth goal on Friday was the second high-profile error the 33-year-old has committed in his last two notable appearances.

    Against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final, it was Casillas' misguided rush off of his line that almost cost Real Madrid their European title, while his alarmingly poor touch in Spain's dreadful opener seemed to reflect a broken confidence in the Spanish legend.

    Consequently, Vicente del Bosque is likely to question whether his first-choice keeper should be replaced by Pepe Reina for Wednesday's encounter with Chile.

    The veteran shot-stopper enjoyed a solid season with Napoli in Serie A in 2013-14, and although he's rarely forced his way past Casillas in the national side, the form slump being endured by the Real Madrid keeper may open the door slightly for Reina.  

Should the Central Defensive Pairing Be Altered?

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    As mentioned in relation to Iker Casillas, the difficulties that tormented Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos against the Dutch had their origins higher up in midfield, rather than solely at the back. 

    Yet, it must be noted how ineffectual the Spanish central defensive pairing were against Louis van Gaal's men on Friday.

    With Pique playing a sweeping role behind the more adventurous Ramos, the centre-backs regularly found themselves detached as Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie scorched into the spaces surrounding them. 

    Although it was the athletic inadequacies of their midfield teammates that were responsible for allowing the Dutch counterattacks to begin, Vicente del Bosque's key defenders were unable to quell the attacks to any degree at all.

    While Ramos' positioning was questionable all night, Pique's lack of physicality was also taken advantage of. 

    Del Bosque, therefore, is likely to consider Javi Martinez as an option against Chile, given his more combative approach on the field may be needed to halt the robust Chileans. 

Cesar Azpilicueta or Juanfran at Right-Back?

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    Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta was given the nod at right-back by Vicente del Bosque against Netherlands last week, but the struggles endured by La Roja down the right may force the manager to opt for the more attacking Juanfran.

    As David Silva continued to drift from right to left against the Dutch, the conservative positioning of Azpilicueta on the right sideline meant that wing-back Daley Blind was able to operate in total freedom. 

    The results were devastating.

    Blind provided two decisive assists in the match while operating in the vast spaces afford to him, carving Spain apart with his searching balls.

    If Del Bosque opts for Silva again on the right—remembering that the Manchester City star was a catalyst in Spain's quick start—the more aggressive tendencies of Juanfran will be required to ensure Chile's left-back, Eugenio Mena, is engaged and prevented from surging forward without consequence. 

    The decision will be different, however, if Del Bosque chooses to deploy a true winger such as Pedro on the right, reducing the burden on his full-back to push forward. 

Is Added Grunt Needed in Midfield?

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Those that witnessed the Dutch's assault on Spain will have acknowledged how physically overwhelmed the defending champions were in midfield.

    As explained in detail here, the high press used by the Spaniards was picked apart because of the inability of Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and David Silva to apply pressure on the ball carrier. 

    With time and space available, Daley Blind and Wesley Sneijder were able to easily release Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben into the vast expanses behind La Roja's high defensive line. 

    Now, Vicente del Bosque faces the conundrum of needing to add more physicality and athleticism in midfield without compromising the flow of the Spanish machine. 

    Should he choose to stick with Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos in the centre of defence, Javi Martinez could be deployed as a holding midfielder, with his strong tackling skills capable of disrupting Chile's attacking efforts on Wednesday. 

    Either Busquets or Alonso would be forced to the bench in that scenario. 

    Atletico Madrid's Koke is another option for Del Bosque. The 22-year-old is a skilled playmaker and dead-ball expert, while also capable of adding grunt to the Spanish midfield after starring in Diego Simeone's direct team in La Liga in 2013-14. 

Drifting Playmaker or True Winger?

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    As illustrated brilliantly by Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe, Spain's one-sided approach was savagely exposed by the Dutch last Friday.

    While David Silva was a key figure in his side's bright start, his habit of drifting to the left from his starting position on the right meant that Vicente del Bosque's men were without any sort of presence on the right flank.

    Alluded to previously, wing-back Daley Blind capitalised on the freedom afforded to him and cut the Spaniards to shreds with his passing. 

    Consequently, Del Bosque will need to consider whether Silva's creativity is worth enough to offset the problems his tendencies create when the opposition gain possession. 

    Against a Chile team likely to counterattack in the same vein as Netherlands, a true winger such as Pedro may be necessary.

    With the Barcelona forward on the pitch, Spain's attacking balance would be enhanced, while their opponents wouldn't be afforded the outlet on the flank that proved so decisive for the Dutch. 

Striker or False 9?

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Diego Costa's presence for Spain against the Dutch had a profound impact on his side's style, as La Roja's midfield looked to move the ball faster and in a more direct manner to the prolific striker. 

    In the opening stages, it certainly looked to be a positive adjustment for the Spaniards, as Costa's probing runs eventually resulted in a penalty for the defending champions.

    However, as Spain's midfield lost its grip on the match in the second half, the Brazilian-born forward naturally drifted out of the game.

    Given the importance of his side's clash with Chile, Vicente del Bosque could opt for Cesc Fabregas in the false nine role to restore his side's sense of control. 

    Fabregas' ability to drift from the centre of the attack and into midfield would aid the Spaniards' possession-fuelled approach and also provide another body around Chile's midfield trio when the ball is lost.

    The decision will rest, of course, on whether Del Bosque feels his team needs to overcome their goal-difference problem after the hammering from the Dutch.

    If the manager simply wants a confidence-restoring 1-0 victory, it's likely that Fabregas will be used. Yet, should he feel that a greater quantity of goals are required, Del Bosque may look to his true striker once more.