Before releasing his squad list for the upcoming friendly against Ecuador, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said, “there are young players already pushing hard for a place and we are convinced that we need to combine a successful past with the other players now coming through the ranks”. And, true to form this is what he has done by including Isco, Thiago Alcantara, Koke, Inigo Martinez and Cristian Tello in the squad for Wednesday’s friendly.
The World Cup is just under a year away and it will creep up fast. There will not be too many more opportunities for this group of players to convince Del Bosque they are worth a ticket to Brazil. But quality-wise and experience-wise, they all are worth it.
"We have a lot of hope pinned to Isco, he is the future of the national team," Del Bosque has admitted recently. Taking this comment into consideration, Isco probably stands a good chance of making the team for Brazil, especially if he carries on like he did at Malaga in his new surroundings at Real Madrid.
Koke is also coming off a fine season with Atletico Madrid as is Inigo Martinez whose club side, Real Sociedad, shocked everyone by qualifying for the Champions League. Along with Isco, he was a sensation at the recent Under-21 European Championships.
Things were not exactly the same for Tello and Thiago over at Barcelona. Neither were regular faces in the starting lineup. But both showed their quality when called upon while few will forget Thiago’s hat-trick in the final of the Under-21 Championships in June.
Del Bosque is the envy of many of his contemporaries, if not all. The Spanish senior side are already embellished with world class players who ply their trades with the best clubs in the world. So much so that Del Bosque practically boasts two viable options for every position on the field. For this reason, despite all their talent and experience, getting a break with the senior team may come later rather than sooner for the next generation of Spanish stars.
Barring anything unexpected, come the tournament next year it will be Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso running the midfield. In defence, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique will keep their places, as will Jordi Alba. Up front, Pedro Gonzalez, Juan Mata, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Jesus Navas and Santi Cazorla have it all covered. There may be a spot up for grabs for the central striker role, for when Del Bosque does opt for a traditional number ‘9’. But if it is not Fernando Torres, it will be either Roberto Soldado or Alvaro Negredo.
From this vantage, the only position possibly available to one of the young players emerging is at right back. Cesar Azilipilicueta has recently made this role his, taking over it from Alvaro Arbeloa. But, the two face stiff competition from Daniel Carvajal who is likely to feature regularly for Real Madrid this season – at the expense of Arbeloa.
Spain’s younger numbers will know all this already. They may know that they have to bide their time before becoming regular starters for their country. For this reason, for most of them securing a place in Del Bosque’s squad is the best they can aim for. But, this could mean travelling to Brazil which, as it is for any player, will be a dream come true.