Little under 12 months ago an Atletico Madrid forward announced that he would be open to representing Spain in Brazil. Having played twice for the Selecao in friendlies, many thought that his future lay with his homeland. Yet FIFA rules still meant he could play for La Roja and after a circus of events he made his Spain debut.
He was supposed to make the difference, a plan B but for many it raised more questions than it answered. Was Diego Costa really the solution? More importantly, was there really a problem that needed a solution? Some in Spain were strongly against Costa representing their country but while they grumbled about it, they had faith that Vicente Del Bosque knew what he was doing. It is fair to say that many don’t believe that anymore.
As Spain set out to retain the World Cup Costa was supposed to be the one that led the way but an injury before the tournament had some worried about his fitness. Costa and the Spain coaches tried to calm nerves but it was clear against the Netherlands that the forward was far from fully fit. Against Chile it was obvious too and as Spain were eliminated one question being asked was whether it had been worth the struggle.
Defenders of Costa will argue that he was not 100% and that may be a valid argument but Del Bosque risked a lot on player who enjoys a love-hate relationship in La Liga. When the Coach saw that Costa wasn’t up to the job, why didn’t he simply drop him or take him off? Again, it’s a situation that raises more questions than answers.
David Villa was brought to Brazil but hasn’t been used. Spain’s all-time top scorer had announced his intention to retire from international football after the World Cup and it wasn’t a huge surprise. This season at Atletico he worked hard but his finishing and his timing was far from what it used to be and for that reason, Los Rojiblancos were content to let him leave at the end of the season.
Fernando Torres has made two appearances so far from the bench but El Nino has never hit the heights he did during his Liverpool days. It appears out of loyalty that Del Bosque brought both players, players that have experience at this level but were clearly out of form. It also appears to have cost him dearly and it is a point that his critics are using against him.
Del Bosque did bring Pedro, who was probably the only forward that was in-form and injury free. Yet, the Barca forward, like all the rest of the squad, failed to make any impact. Should he have brought Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente instead? It would be easy to say so, but it is not that clear.
Before the season started Roberto Soldado looked like a strong candidate to be included in the final 23 but a disastrous first season in England cut his dreams short. Negredo enjoyed a great start to his Manchester City career but then found himself on the bench. Some would argue that at least he would have come into the competition rested but his form had also dipped.
Llorente ended his season in the goals but in 2012 there were rumours that he and Del Bosque had an argument and his exclusion would appear to add weight to that. Some say that Negredo and Llorente lacked experience and so that was the reason for them being excluded. But then what about Costa? He had no caps but still made the cut.
Right now Spain have some very talented youngsters coming through but they are entering a period of transition. Negredo, Llorente, Costa, Pedro and Soldado will have a chance to make their claim as Villa has retired and Torres is expected to do so. Del Bosque has said that he plans to stay at the helm and he faces some very tough decisions.
Spain’s forwards at the World Cup, like other aspects of the squad, failed to show up and so the Coach must make some serious changes to ensure the embarrassment in Brazil never happens again.