Tickets may not have completely sold out for the Olympic Football event, but once the hype gears into full throttle then you can be sure to see queues from as far away as Cristiano Ronaldo believes he can score from. Accumulating players from 4 countries is no easy feat and a draft of nearly 200 players have been murmured so it’s unsurprising for us Brits to be perplexed as to what will materialise come August without a known squad as yet.
Spain don’t have to deal with that dilemma, and with their Under 21 squad winning the European Championships last year, the country remains quietly confident in their youngsters to bring, what could possibly be, a second major international trophy home this summer.
Depending on who travels to Poland/Ukraine for the proper European Championships this June, an 18 man squad shall be built from the unlucky ones left behind, consisting of 3 over 23 years olds. Below, I pick my players who could feature in London this summer.
David de Gea, 21 (Manchester United): He’s not had the best of beginnings to English football in his debut season with Manchester United but the young custodian has plenty of potential and should be first choice between the posts.
Sergio Asenjo, 23* (Atletico Madrid): Injuries have curtailed Asenjo’s rise and mistakes have been costly to the Atleti keeper but he will be second choice to De Gea and a low risk choice. Other than that, there are few young Spanish goalkeepers of note except Diego Marino but his racial outburst in January has meant an expulsion from my team.
Jordi Alba, 23* (Valencia): A contender for a place in Vicente Del Bosque’s Euro 2012 squad, Alba has two caps for the national team and impressed in both, providing an assist for David Silva against Scotland. Even if he is selected by Del Bosque, Alba could find himself on the bench for the majority and therefore a worthy pick for the Olympic squad.
Martin Montoya, 21* (Barcelona): An exciting prospect, Montoya has already been picked in the full squad despite not having played a La Liga game this season. Another talent from the illustrious Barca production line, Montoya bagged his first senior goal in the Champions League win over BATE Borisov in December.
Carlos Marchena, 32 (Villarreal): My first overage pick; should Marchena not make the final cut for Euro 2012, then London could be his consolation. His experience will be invaluable with 69 caps and two international goals to his name. A World Cup winner and all round lucky charm (holds the record for consecutive undefeated matches played for Spain), Marchena firms up my inexperienced back line.
Ignasi Miquel, 19 (Arsenal): Young left back Miquel is slowly but surely making his way into the Arsenal staring line up, and that can only be a good thing. Having yet to reach the Under 21 set up, Miquel will surely benefit from the tournament feel and vast experience within the squad.
Alvaro Dominguez, 23* (Atletico Madrid): Like Montoya, Dominguez was called up to the senior squad for the games against Chile and Liechtenstein. A regular for Atleti this season, Dominguez could fit into this squad at centre back despite his club’s insistence to field him at full back.
Marcos Senna, 36* (Villarreal): Sadly Senna’s injuries kept him from cementing a spot in the Spain squad for the 2010 World Cup and no longer finds himself among selection. Yet his skill is not to be doubted and the 35 year old runs a Villarreal team who have struggled this season. Energy and tough tackling combined with a wonderful eye for a pass, I’d be surprised if Senna is not considered for the team this summer.
Thiago Alcantara, 21* (Barcelona): Along with Jordi Alba, Thiago could be included with the national setup in Poland/Ukraine this summer. He’s made 30 appearances for Barcelona this year and is set to follow in the footsteps of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets from the famed academy into the even more famed Barca midfield. Thiago was also voted Player of the Tournament in last years Under 21 triumph and scored a sensational free-kick in the final; a future starlet in the making.
Cristian Tello, 20, (Barcelona): Scored his first Barca goal last week in the win over Real Sociedad and looked lively throughout the match. Yet to feature for the Under 21s, it seems inevitable that the youngster will do at some stage. Watch out for his pace; Tello has an astonishing turn of pace which allows him to skin defenders from the wing.
Oriol Romeu, 20 (Chelsea): Andre Villas-Boas took Romeu to London last summer and has carefully slipped him into a Chelsea team that is slowly beginning to show its age. Formerly of Barcelona, Romeu has been effective in his displays this season and with Michael Essien and Frank Lampard for company, he has plenty of advice coming his way.
Isco Alarcon, 20 (Malaga): A €6million summer signing from Valencia, Isco has found it tough since his transfer, only playing in 9 games since. More chances have come of late however and Isco helped himself to two goals in as many matches in November so his emergence is just another sign of the strength of the Spanish youth system these days.
Santi Cazorla, 27 (Malaga): A team mate of Isco’s, Cazorla may have to settle for a watching Euro 2012 at home in Malaga thanks to the likes of Juan Mata, David Silva and Jesus Navas taking Del Bosque’s fancy. His experience and creativity will no doubt be utilised on one way or another and will add a fierce, attacking intent to the Spanish midfield as well as vital experience as my final overage pick.
Pablo Sarabia, 20 (Getafe): A former Real Madrid youngster and Spanish Under 19 captain, Sarabia has finally found first team football at Getafe following a €3million transfer. Another attacking option, Sarabia will also be one to benefit from the tournament feel and experience from fellow squad members.
Isaac Cuenca, 21* (Barcelona): 4 goals and 4 assists so far this season for Cuenca who made the step up to the full Barca team in January; he is nicely poised to feature heavily this season following a huge number of injuries to Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Iker Muniain, 19 (Athletic Bilbao): Fans of Bilbao are rightly excited about Muniain who has so far appeared over 100 times for the club in 2 and a half seasons. A key member of the Under 21 victors last year and Bilbao’s first team, Muniain will no doubt be asked to feature in London this year.
Rodrigo Moreno, 21* (Benfica): Spent last season on loan at Bolton, Moreno has a destructive goalscoring record, notching anywhere and everywhere, although he only registered a single goal while with the Trotters. 12 goals in 20 games with the Portuguese giants this season and 7 in 5 Under 21 appearances means Moreno is definitely one to watch in the future. Originally had a buy-back clause with Real Madrid, Fabio Coentrao’s transfer annulled that variable and it could come back to haunt Mourinho and Madrid.
Daniel Pacheco, 21 (Liverpool): He’s not hit the expected heights so many expected of him but Pacheco, currently on loan with Rayo Vallecano, could be selected due to his record with the Spanish youth teams. Plus should he hit form all of a sudden then his place could be all but sealed and will gain plenty with first team opportunities just beginning to come Pacheco’s way.
*Age when the tournament begins