Vicente Del Bosque yesterday announced a Spain squad for two upcoming friendlies against Serbia and South Korea, and with the European Championships in mind. Although many of the names won’t go to the tournament in Ukraine and Poland, a few new faces who aren’t uncapped managed to make their way into the squad. David De Gea, on the back of a fantastic second half of the season with Manchester United, was one of them. But who are the others that you may not be familiar with?
Atlético Madrid’s full-back has had an outstanding season after being converted from his regular right sided attacking midfield role. He found himself out of favour at the start of the season, but with injuries and loss of to others he managed to become permanent fixture in the team. Diego Simeone’s arrival at Atleti saw Juanfran become more disciplined in his defensive work, and after quietly getting along he began to emerge as a key man in the team who won the Europa League. Hard working, quick, and physical he’s an excellent option for Del Bosque to have on Spain’s ‘weak’ right side.
Although the young centre-back has appeared in a Del Bosque squad before, he remains uncapped. Out of all the new players he was perhaps the biggest surprise given that he’s floated in and out of the Atlético Madrid team this season – he’s by no means been a first choice. He’s a confidence player, and he needs regular games to maximise his clear potential. When it comes to defending Domínguez can be a colossal figure, adept aerially and also showing the ability to use his feet when on the ball. Loss of form to other young centre-backs has helped in his selection here though, no doubt.
The decision that pleased me most personally was the selection of Beñat. The Real Betis midfielder has been playing at an outstanding level for two consecutive seasons now. Firstly with his team in the Segunda División as they achieved promotion, and that level of performance was transferred to the Primera División this season. Beñat is the sort of midfielder every fan wants in their team; he’s neat, precise, can defend, instigate attacks and operates with a great deal of technical quality. Still only 24, he’s one of the finest central midfielders in Spain.
Javi García made a decision several years ago to fly the Real Madrid nest in search of regular football, and he’s never looked back. “They never recognised my worth” he said recently in an interview, but at Benfica he has found a home. He’s the hustle in midfield, shutting down opponents avenues, but also retaining the ability to construct the beginnings of attacks. He gets through some leg work in a game, and is endurance personified. His emergence as one of the finer defensive midfielders in Europe is of great use in terms of Spain’s depth.
To think just over a year ago this young man was forging himself a reputation in Spain’s lower categories, now he’s an established La Liga attacking midfielder with a full Spain call-up. At just 20 years old he’s taken La Liga by storm, even eclipsing big money signing Santi Cazorla at Málaga. He’s confident, skilful, intelligent and agile; overall, a joy to watch. He’s got the ability to cut in devilishly from wide and dictate from central areas, linking with teammates and sometimes taking matters into his own hands. Isco has the potential to be one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe, such is the level of talent he harnesses. Del Bosque will like his directness and ability to unlock a defence, after all Spain can never have too many creative minds.
Falcao may have grabbed the limelight at Atleti, but lurking just behind the Colombian is his excellent partner in crime. Adrián’s first season with Atleti has been outstanding, managing goals and assists while in La Liga but also offering a strong of sensational performances in the Europa League. Del Bosque is keen on using the wide areas in his system, and Adrián has the ability to pull any defence apart with his intelligent movement and non-stop running. Falcao may be picking up the plaudits, but behind every great striker there is usually someone else doing the hard work in the shadows.
Spain are looking to for glory in two big competitions this summer, and you can back them to win the Europa Championships at 3.50, and the Olympics at 2.60. Maybe back both for increased odds if you’re feeling confident in Spain’s chances of football domination in 2012.