Vicente del Bosque has a tough task in selecting 23 men out of around 50 world class players, choosing a squad based on form, potential, cohesion and experience so that Spain can retain their FIFA World Cup crown. An unsuccessful Confederations Cup campaign has seen change flourish in the Spanish camp with various newbies coming into the squad, but can any of these outside contenders realistically make VDB’s final 23?
The 21 year old Atletico Madrid striker is probably the most likely youngster to be named in del Bosque’s squad with the Spanish coach keen on Koke. He’s played for the senior side 5 times having previously represented Spain from Under 16 level to Olympic level last year in London. He was part of the successful Under 21 side that won the European Championships this summer and has made the transition to the full squad with ease. VDB is a fan of Koke as his defensive contribution is great in contrast to David Silva, Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla etc and is seen as a sensible option. Koke is a regular with his club side and he helped them to 3rd place last season with three league goals. In only seven games this season, Koke has two strikes and could improve his goalscoring considerably this season with a starting role in the Champions League perfect for his development.
On the other hand, VDB may prefer to utilise the searing pace of Cristian Tello down the wing, especially if striking options are limited (as they are currently). Tello has just the one Spanish cap, earned in the friendly win over Ecuador in August, but has been progressing at a steady rate each season, so much so that he’s already played 7 times for Barcelona this season. He also has an eye for goal, having scored 10 La Liga goals in two seasons even with Lionel Messi in the side! If the winger has an equally potent season with plenty of game time then he could ease Jesus Navas out of the squad in time. Navas is an almost identical player to Tello, both with pace to burn, but Navas has never been a consistent goalscorer. Tello’s time will surely come but injuries to a couple of Spanish wingers may halt his World Cup dreams.
Suarez took a spot on the bench for both of Spain’s recent qualifiers against Belarus and Georgia and will be doing everything he can in training to ensure he is selected on the plane to Brazil. His presence in the squad could be down to injury to Javi Martinez but with the Bayern player injured Suarez could jump in and make the defensive midfield cover spot his own. Suarez has progressed through the Spanish youth system but at 26 he has made the transition to the national setup slower than some of the youngsters coming through. The strong central midfielder has enjoyed his recent years with Atletico Madrid and was a contributing factor to their exemplary defensive record last season. If Martinez is selected as a secondary centre-back then Suarez could have his chance there but he is most definitely a fringe player for the moment.
Prieto might be a long-shot but his importance to Real Sociedad is incredible. He’s been used sparingly this season due to Champions League commitments but once Sociedad begin to get their season going Prieto will shine once again. He enjoyed a wonderful season last year, scoring nine times as Sociedad finished fourth and has scored once already this season. Prieto is a Basque player and is very similar to Xabi Alonso in the way that they both enjoy to pass the ball and perform cute lay-offs for team mates. Yet to win a Spanish cap, Prieto needs to do exactly what Michu did and keep plugging away and cause doubt in the mind of VDB. As a penalty expert Prieto may be indispensable for just one moment during next year’s World Cup.
Finally given a well deserved starting role on Saturday, Alvaro Morata is in with an unlikely shout of making Spain’s World Cup squad. The talent Morata has is undoubted as he has proven the Spain Under 21 coach and Carlo Ancelotti wrong in the space of six months. Morata is a goalscorer, coming off the bench to great effect during the Under 21 Championships and for Madrid over the past two seasons. He’s a fearless player who generates an impact like Javier Hernandez does at Manchester United when coming off the bench. Although behind plenty of world class strikers at the moment, including at Madrid, if he can continue to improve his knack of coming off the bench to score then VDB would have to consider taking Morata. If injuries and poor form continue for Spain up front then Morata could be the one to inject life into Spain late on in games and play without fear at the pinnacle of world football.