Spain Show Depth vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, but Euro 2016 Preparations Look Messy

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2016

ST GALLEN, SWITZERLAND - MAY 29:  Manuel Agudo 'Nolito' of Spain celebrates after scoring the opening goal during an international friendly match between Spain and Bosnia at the AFG Arena on May 29, 2016 in St Gallen, Switzerland.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

It's in a single position where all of this is encapsulated, and on Sunday evening, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque put it into words. 

"We have two days until I name my list of 23 players," he said at his post-match press conference following his team's 3-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Switzerland. "While we are waiting to hear from the medics, [Hector] Bellerin stays with us."

The medical team Del Bosque was referring to is the one evaluating Real Madrid's Dani Carvajal. The previous night in Milan, the right-back limped off at the San Siro during his team's victory over Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final, tears flowing in the fear of it—that not only would he miss the decisive period of the final, but that his Euro 2016 campaign might already be over too. 

For Del Bosque, such a situation is emblematic of the wider position he and his team are in. Ahead of this summer's UEFA European Championship, Spain's depth is extraordinary and the manager's options are vast, but concurrently, La Roja's preparations also look messy and problematic for a team expected to seriously contend. 

On Sunday at the AFG Arena in St. Gallen, it was Hector Bellerin who completed 90 minutes at right-back. He was impressive, too, but that shouldn't really have come as a surprise. 

After all, Bellerin is fresh off a sparkling campaign with Arsenal in the Premier League, one which saw him voted into the Professional Footballers' Association Team of the Year. At just 21 years of age, the Catalan is already among the world's leading players at his position, and yet at national level, he's on standby, not even included in Del Bosque's provisional 25-man squad for Euro 2016. 

In front of him: Carvajal and Atletico's Juanfran. 

As depth goes, it's remarkable. And it's not just at right-back where it's evident. 

ST GALLEN, SWITZERLAND - MAY 29:  Hector Bellerin of Spain competes for the ball with Sead Kolasinac (L) and Ervin Zukanovic of Bosnia during an international friendly match between Spain and Bosnia at the AFG Arena on May 29, 2016 in St Gallen, Switzerla
David Ramos/Getty Images

Against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Del Bosque put out a starting lineup that featured national-team stalwarts like Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and Pedro; that included the experienced and in-form Nolito, Bruno Soriano, Aritz Aduriz and Mikel San Jose; that had the ever-reliable Cesar Azpilicueta; that contained rising stars like Bellerin and Marco Asensio.

And on the bench were Denis Suarez (wanted by Barcelona) and Inaki Williams (release clause: €50 million). 

For Spain, it was staggering that a team of such quality could be put out, given that the absentee list read: Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Thiago Alcantara, David De Gea, Jordi Alba, Koke, Isco, Juanfran, Carvajal, Saul Niguez, Alvaro Morata and Lucas Vazquez.  

The depth doesn't stop there, either.

To fully appreciate the extent of Spain's talent pool, you have to consider the other men who didn't even make Del Bosque's provisional squad: Diego Costa, Fernando Torres, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Paco Alcacer, Sergi Roberto, Mario Gaspar, Inigo Martinez, Benat Etxebarria, Javi Martinez, Nacho Monreal and Gerard Deulofeu just to name some. 

If it's often said that a nation's footballing strength is reflected not by its first XI but by those who aren't in it, then Spain is peerless. 

And yet, ahead of Euro 2016, that doesn't mean Del Bosque and his men are without problems. 

ST GALLEN, SWITZERLAND - MAY 29:  Head coach Vicente Del Bosque of Spain directs his players during an international friendly match between Spain and Bosnia at the AFG Arena on May 29, 2016 in St Gallen, Switzerland.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Though Sunday saw an understrength La Roja take victory from a full-strength Bosnia and Herzegovina—one that contained Miralem Pjanic, Asmir Begovic and Edin Dzeko—it was striking that such major reshuffling was necessary so close to a major tournament. 

When Spain walked out at St. Gallen, they were only 12 days away from the opening of Euro 2016 and just 15 from their first group game against the Czech Republic. At such a juncture, they need clarity in their purpose, certainty over the composition of the squad and a sense of momentum building. 

But right now, there's little of that. 

For Del Bosque, the doubt over Carvajal is a headache with the tournament looming so close on the horizon, and as he watched his reserves in action on Sunday in Switzerland, the veteran boss must have felt at least mildly concerned by the preparations being undertaken by his stars. 

Indeed, at the same time back in the Spanish capital, Del Bosque's Real Madrid contingent was busy enjoying the party of all parties. From Milan, they'd landed at Barajas airport just after 6 a.m. on Sunday, before enjoying a bus parade, the customary celebrations in Plaza de Cibeles and a spectacular show at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Meanwhile, Del Bosque's Atletico players were enduring the maximum heartache football can offer—Juanfran perhaps suffering more than anyone—while the manager's stars from Barcelona have only just put their feet up after a gruelling slog of a season that spanned six competitions. 

Preparations? Can you even call them that?

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 29: Captain Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid CF holds the trophy behind Cristiano Ronaldo as they offer it to the audience surrounded by their teammates at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium the day after winning the UEFA Champions League Final matc
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The thing is, in other years, even when they've had more time to prepare, Spain might have been equipped to deal with circumstances like these relatively comfortably. But this year is a little different. 

During La Roja's peak between 2008 and 2012, the key element the team possessed was an extremely defined identity. Amid the historic capture of three straight titles, particularly at the 2010 World Cup, Spain were almost an extension of Barcelona, the midfield of Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta seeing the Catalans' model transported onto the international stage. 

That gave Spain clarity and continuity. With a Barcelona core, they had the greatest thing in football to fall back on, negating the impact of long seasons and the associated fatigue, of reshuffles and compromised preparatory periods. 

Now, though, that model isn't the same. 

Though Iniesta and Busquets remain prominent, the emphasis at Barcelona has been taken away from the midfield and put on three South American forwards. That has seen the dynamic at the Camp Nou change considerably, with Luis Enrique now presiding over a team that is far more direct and plays with greater speed but less control.

As such, a Barcelona-led structure isn't there for Spain in the way it once was. Ahead of Euro 2016, La Roja are a side in transition, looking for a new collective identity as the next generation is introduced. In that, the midfield is undergoing a period of evolution, and the forward setup still needs to be settled on.

For Del Bosque, there is no shortage of talent at his disposal amid such a process, but it's how that talent comes together and how it will function, that is surrounded by a degree of uncertainty. Spain are still working out exactly who they are. 

It's why Sunday neatly illustrated their position: The depth on show was impressive, but this late into preparations, it's not depth that you want to be showcasing.