Spain Olympic Football Team: 2012 Roster Predictions & Analysis
The goal for Spain soccer at the 2012 Olympics will be no less than continuing the nation's international success. After winning the 2008 Euros, Spain followed up by winning the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Luis Milla took Spain's then-new generation of stars to European glory in the U-21 European Championship last June. The same success will be expected in London.
In this Golden Era of Spanish football, the amount of talent at manager Luis Milla's disposal is astounding.
Many of these stars will be playing in the next World Cup in Brazil. In fact, this squad as it is would be a potential contender in 2014.
In continuing with Bleacher Report's Olympic football team coverage, here is a preview of Spain's summer Olympic hopes.
On February 24th, Spain announced the squad for the 2012 Olympics. The players are listed below by position.
Keepers: David de Gea (Manchester United) and Diego Mariño (Villarreal)
Defenders: Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Alvaro Dominguez (Atletico Madrid), Martin Montoya (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Marseille), Didac Vila (Espanyol), Botia (Sporting Gijon), Victor Ruiz (Valencia)
Midfielders: Ander Iturraspe (Athletic Bilbao), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao), Oscar de Marcos (Athletic Bilbao), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Oriol Romeu (Chelsea), Isco (Malaga)
Forwards: Diego Capel (Sporting Lisbon), Adrian Lopez (Atletico Madrid), Cristian Tello (Barcelona), Isaac Cuenca (Barcelona), Rodrigo Moreno (Benfica)
Sergio Busquets has stated that he wants to play in the games and will almost certainly be granted his wish.
Thiago (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Jordi Alba (Valencia) and Juan Angel (Roma) are eligible, but may play due to their promotion to the senior squad and time spent at the Euros this summer.
Potential Over-23 Selections
The Olympics is a U-23 tournament that only allows three players over the eligible age.
In the case of South America's Olympics teams, this presents a great opportunity to field the three best players possible to field the strongest team.
However, for powerful European squads like Spain, the age exception is more of a way to fill the most pressing needs according to weaknesses left by the U-23 roster.
The Euros take place this summer as well, so senior options become more limited.
In Spain's case, there are no glaring weakness. The central forward position lacks a bit of depth, but Cristian Tello presents a fine option.
Adrian Lopez will likely still be selected. He won the Golden Boot at the U-21 Euros and was a favorite of Milla's.
The following players may not feature for the senior squad at the Euros and present other great alternatives for Milla:
Jeffren (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Callejon (Real Madrid), Borja Valero (Villarreal), Michu (Rayo Vallecano), Pedro (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Gaizka Toquero (Athletic Bilbao), Javi Garcia (Benfica), Nolito (Benfica).
Projected Starters: David de Gea
Projected Reserves: Diego Mariño
This is an obvious choice. Despite what Sir Alex Ferguson may want for his number one, De Gea will almost certainly be in the London Olympics.
The Manchester United keeper has had an incredible second half of the season and has silenced many doubters who took his first-half play as what to expect.
Potential Alternatives: Ruben Miño (Barcelona), Sergio Asenjo (Atletico Madrid)
Projected Starters: Martín Montoya, Botía, Álvaro Domínguez, Didac Vilá
Projected Reserves: Cesar Azpilicueta, Victor Ruiz
This back four proved to be reliable at the U-21 tournament and I expect Mila to keep it. Victor Ruiz is the most likely exclusion in favor of Mikel San Jose, so it is important for both players to finish strong in La Liga.
Potential Alternatives: Mikel San Jose (Athletic Bilbao), Iñigo Martinez (Real Sociedad), Jordi Alba (Valencia), Jose Angel (Roma)
Long Shots: Jon Aurtenetxe (Athletic Bilbao), Marc Bartra (Barcelona), Marc Muniesa (Barcelona), Carles Planas (Barcelona), Jordi Amat (Espanyol), Jorge Pulido (Rayo Vallecano), Hugo Mallo (Celta)
Projected Starters: Sergio Busquets, Javi Martinez, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera
Projected Reserves: Isco, Oriol Romeu
I am assuming that Busquets, Martinez and Mata will all be allowed in the squad. If Sergio and/or Javi cannot play, Oriol Romeu would be the likely replacement alongside Iturraspe.
Isco would be the clear choice to replace Mata as the No. 10 with Oscar de Marcos being next in line.
Potential Alternatives: Ander Iturraspe (Athletic Bilbao), Oscar de Marcos (Athletic Bilbao), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Thiago (Barcelona)
Long Shots: Asier Illarramendi (Real Sociedad), Dani Parejo (Valencia), Jonathan Viera (Las Palmas), Recio (Malaga), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Sergio Canales (Valencia)
Projected Starters: Adrian Lopez, Iker Muniain
Projected Reserves: Cristian Tello, Rodrigo Moreno
Atletico Madrid's Adrian has been the lone striker thus far in qualifying and will likely keep that role after having his best season at the club level.
Although, with their form this season, Tello or Moreno could replace him and make room for Isaac Cuenca or Alvaro.
Muniain is the clear choice to lead the attack from the wing and will be one of the stars of the tournament.
Potential Alternatives: Isaac Cuenca (Barcelona), Alvaro Vazquez (Espanyol), Diego Capel (Sporting Lisbon)
Long Shots: Bojan (Roma), Pablo Sarabia (Getafe), Joselu (Real Madrid), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Jeffren (Sporting Lisbon)
Luis Milla is very familiar with this squad after leading Spain to the U-21 European Championship title in Denmark last summer.
His tactics and formation selections are very similar to that of the senior squad and I expect to see Spain's version of the 4-2-3-1.
Busquets and Martinez would play as the two defensive midfielders. Mata would take the number 10 role with Muniain on the left and Ander on the right. Adrian will then play the central role.
Attack-minded possession football is what we will see. The defense will use a high line and the midfield already looks good enough for the World Cup.
Milla leads one of the best clubs in the world to the Olympics this summer and will be aiming to repeat the success of last summer's U-21 tournament.
Clearly the best European side in the tournament, Spain has the talent to continue Spain's unprecedented international success with the gold medal.
With this much talent, anything less than third is almost unthinkable.
However, with the Euros taking some talent away from Milla and a lot of pressure on the squad to continue the success the national squad, playing for third place would not be shocking.
If the defense proves to be vulnerable and if they are drawn with a tough opponent like England, Brazil or Uruguay, a fourth-place finish could be in the cards for La Furia Roja.
If Spain also fail to win this summer's Euros, it will be a great disappointment for the nation currently experiencing its best international run in history.
Spain's U-23 squad will take the gold and beat Brazil and England en route to victory.
This win will not only continue the success of Spanish football, but will also signal a new era of dominance over the next five years.
A win at the London Olympics will show that Spain will remain the best in the world even after current legends like Xavi, David Villa, Puyol and Iker Casillas leave.
Nicknames: La Roja (The Red One), La Furia Roja (The Red Fury), L'equip d'or (Golden Team)
La Azul Celeste (The Sky Blue)
Manager: Luis Milla
Best Olympic Finish: Gold (1992 in Barcelona)
How they Qualified for the Olympics: Won the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Football Championship
Recent Highlights: Here is a video of Spain's Under-21 victory last June. Goals from Ander Herrera and Thiago sealed Spain's final victory over Switzerland.
Fun Facts: Spain houses the largest football stadium in Europe. The Camp Nou, home to FC Barcelona, seats 99,354.
Also, Spain are the reigning European, World Cup and Under-21 champions of football.