Del Bosque cuts eight men from his squad on June 2nd before flying to Brazil for the first defense of the World Cup trophy they took in such style in 2010. Since then, Spain have been called into question on numerous occasions, despite also winning the European Championship in 2012. There is little doubt that they deserve to be among the favorites going into the competition, however in comparison to 2010, the landscape is very different within the squad.
There is no doubt that the former heroic Iker Casillas no longer carves the same figure he once did. It was something Mourinho identified a year and a half ago, and despite the vilification from the partisan Real Madrid fans, the ‘Special One’ knew what he was talking about. Casillas’ judgment seems to have gone out of the window as exemplified by the glaring error in the Champions League final, which was 30 seconds from costing Ronaldo and co their victory. De Gea has never started as the Spanish number one, yet he has been exemplary this season for his club, and Reina has always been an excellent shot stopper despite making the odd high profiler error. Casillas probably can’t be dropped due to reputation, yet opponents will identify him as a weakness in the tournament.
Dropped: Pepe Reina
The certainties for inclusion are Sergio Ramos (R Madrid), Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba (Barca), Javi Martinez (Bayern), Raul Albiol (Napoli), and Juanfran of Atletico Madrid. This leaves Azplicueta of Chelsea, the young Cavajal of Real and Sevilles’s Moreno to battle it out for the one remaining place. Cavajal may just have won a Champoins League medal, but his performance on the biggest stage was definitely questionable. Aplicueta has had a great season in England and he is likely to take the final spot at the expense of the other two.
Dropped: Alberto Moreno, Dani Carvajal
Spain has 11 midfielders which will most likely be cut down to 8 for the tournament, so four will face the heartbreaking axe. Definitely in you would think, would be the four Barcelona entrants of Iniesta, the aging Xavi, Busquets and Fabregas (despite not having the best year), Xabi Alonso, Koke and David Silva will join the Bracelona players as certainties. This leaves Santi Carzola, Mata, Iturraspe, and Jesus Navas to battle it out for the one remaining spot, and with Santi Carzola and Mata both adopting similar roles – and Mata previously being out-of-favor with Del Bosque, these two are likely to miss out. The victor here is likely to be Jesus Navas who will be able to offer the Spanish some much needed width going forward. He showed some great moments in the Premier League this season and, despite the fact that the Spanish midfield is the most competitive in the world, he should take his place at the expense of the others.
Dropped: Juan Mata, Santi Carzola and Ander Iturraspe
Spain won the Euro’s without the need for a striker, however in the last two years much has changed. Llorente came to the fore with Atletico Bilbao a few years ago and now plies his trade at Juventus, Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa became a naturalized Spaniard and has been in electrifying form this season, although he limped off injured after 10 minutes of the Champions League final, and Negredo showed scintillating form early in the season for Man City despite going off the boil in the final few months. If fit, these three players will be included, leaving Torres (who never looks likely to recapture his Liverpool form now), Pedro of Barca, and David Villa to battle it out for the remaining spot. Pedro has youth on his side and will probably be given the nod.
Dropped: Fernando Torres and David Villa
The only change in this may be if Del Bosque takes an extra midfielder at the expense of a striker, however with so much strength across the board this year in terms of rivals to the Spanish dominance, he’d be well advised not to play with nobody upfront this time around if he hopes to retain the title.
Either way, Spain will be there or thereabouts, they have the benefit of a squad that knows what it is like to win the whole thing, an experienced side with an infusion of youth. It’s hard to ignore Spain along with Brazil, Holland, Germany and Belgium as potential winners.