Film Focus: Torres Inclusion in Spain Squad Underlines World Cup Striking Issue

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistMay 31, 2014

David Ramos/Getty Images

Spain have one major issue and it's strikingly obvious.

This problem aside, the current World Cup champions look well prepared to defend their title at the 2014 Brazil tournament.

The defence seems settled, with Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Cesar Azpilicueta a sturdy back-line.

In midfield, Barcelona's Sergio Busquets will line up alongside Real Madrid's Xabi Alonso and his own team-mate Xavi.

Then, you can expect Andres Iniesta, either David Silva or Pedro and a striker.

And the striker is the problem.

Manchester City's Alvaro Negredo and Juventus' Fernando Llorente were snubbed by Vicente del Bosque on Saturday morning when he picked his 23 men to take to the tournament.

Instead, Atletico Madrid pair David Villa and Diego Costa made the cut, along with Chelsea's Fernando Torres.

Cesc Fabregas, although categorised as a midfielder, should also be counted as a striker as that's the only position he's likely to play in for Spain.

Against Bolivia in La Roja's 2-0 win on Friday night, we saw Torres lead the line for an hour, with Fabregas replacing him for the last 30 minutes.

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Torres may not start against Holland.
Torres may not start against Holland.David Ramos/Getty Images

Even if Costa is fit for the opening match of the World Cup, expect to see Fabregas playing at the tip of the team.

In his brief display against Bolivia he showed more than Torres, even though his performance was not ideal either.

Let's start with Chelsea striker Torres, who, despite scoring the opening goal, did little to impress anyone watching.

Played in after nine minutes, the Torres of old would have taken the ball down and found time for a shot.

However, after receiving the ball in a good position, he took it wide of the goal, breaking down the attack.

Torres receives the ball in an excellent position.
Torres receives the ball in an excellent position.Cuatro

Torres heads wide of goal.
Torres heads wide of goal.Cuatro

We've seen him do this for Chelsea countless times in recent years.

Maybe it's a confidence issue, maybe it's poor control. Probably a little bit of both.

Torres takes up wide positions when sometimes you wish he'd stay in the middle and act like a real centre-forward.

His shooting from distance is poor, so when he comes in from the left to line up a strike, opposition defences are rarely worried.

On this occasion he spewed the ball a long way wide of the right-hand post.

And in the second frame he drilled a strike low, past the left-hand upright.

Torres fires a long way wide of goal.
Torres fires a long way wide of goal.Cuatro

Torres fires wide of the post from distance.
Torres fires wide of the post from distance.Cuatro

Pedro, playing on the left, got a couple of excellent crosses into the box, but there was rarely any danger of Torres getting on the end of them.

If Costa had been playing, however, you get the feeling he'd have strained every sinew in his body to meet one of the balls.

With so much creativity behind the striker in the Spain side, you want someone greedy up front to finish the job.

And although Costa isn't the purest finisher, he's always willing to take a chance.

Torres got his goal from the penalty spot, but then, when finally in the right place to receive the ball as the striker, wasted a golden chance.

Iniesta fed the ball into him in the centre of the box but Torres, instead of calmly slotting it home, decided to chip the goalkeeper and ended up punting the ball into the stand.

Torres wasted a golden chance.
Torres wasted a golden chance.Cuatro

It was his final action of note and he made way for Fabregas just after the hour mark.

Within a couple of minutes Fabregas had already caused more trouble in a central area than Torres, with only a last ditch tackle denying him when in front of goal.

Fabregas instantly caused trouble.
Fabregas instantly caused trouble.Cuatro

But Fabregas, a central midfielder, is not best equipped to lead the line for Spain in games against sides his team expect to win comfortably against.

He plays as a genuine false nine, whereas if anything Torres is a false false nine; a real striker playing as if he's not one.

Fabregas is preferable to Torres in the role because where Torres simply goes missing up top, Cesc drops back with a purpose.

On one occasion in the second half he came back into central midfield, creating a huge space for Pedro to dart into.

Fabregas lofted the ball beautifully into the path of his Barcelona team-mate, who should have found the net.

Fabregas plays a perfect pass to Pedro.
Fabregas plays a perfect pass to Pedro.Cuatro

Pedro should score from here.
Pedro should score from here.Cuatro

You can expect, in the tougher games, Fabregas to be selected.

But against Chile and Australia, Spain should line up with a "real" striker.

Del Bosque will hope Costa is fit, but Torres is next in line.

Villa has not been playing as a proper frontman for Atletico, more often just a foil for Costa.

If Spain can find the right balance then they have an excellent chance of keeping football's most prestigious trophy.

But by selecting Torres ahead of both Llorente and Negredo, who have scored more goals than him this season and looked far more effective, Del Bosque is leaving himself open to criticism.

The Chelsea man has a more fluid style, but it's often ineffective.

Costa plays in a similar way to Torres, with plenty of willing, able to run the channels, but he is a far better goalscorer.

He can be the key to Spain's World Cup bid, even if he's not utilised as a starter in the latter stages of the competition.

It's easy to imagine Fabregas playing 80 minutes of a semi-final clash against, say, Argentina, before making way for the fresh Costa.

Diego Costa could be crucial.
Diego Costa could be crucial.Francisco Seco/Associated Press

The Atletico striker will be able to stretch tired legs at the end of a match and potentially extra-time.

If Costa isn't fit, then the task will be left to Torres.

While he has the ability inside him, the difficult task is coaxing it out.

Should he play like he did against Bolivia, then Spain may find things hard going.