23rd March 2016. By Karl Matchett.
It wasn't as varied or filled with new faces as might have been hoped, but the Spain squad called up by Vicente del Bosque last week did at least take notice of some of the clamouring for certain players to be involved.
Athletic Club striker Aritz Aduriz was plumped for after months of petitioning from the Spanish media to have him included and he, along with one or two others, must now be handed significant game time during the international break to allow himself to prove he has something to offer for Euro 2016.
Spain face Italy on Thursday and Romania on Sunday in a double-header which is del Bosque's last chance to take a look at players in-season. The next time a squad is announced, it will be the larger pre-tournament squad, which will have a few friendlies to play out as the boss trims his squad to the requisite 23. It means those not included this time, such as the likes of Atletico Madrid's Saul, Villarreal's Victor Ruiz or West Ham United goalkeeper Adrian, must now be feeling they have almost certainly missed out on a squad place for the Euros.
As such, and given Spain's reasonable, yet far from dominating, progression through the qualifiers, those who have come in this time must be given the chance to win themselves a place.
Aduriz has netted 30 for the season in all competitions, comfortably more than any other Spanish striker, and is vying for one of three probable spots against Alvaro Morata, Diego Costa and Paco Alcacer. It's Costa who has missed out this time, but there's still a lingering sense that del Bosque has made an easy call this time to give Aduriz a shot because so many onlookers have demanded it, rather than because he genuinely wants to call up the Basque attacker or have him in France over the summer.
It's pointless and disrespectful, now that Aduriz is in the squad, to only hand him a couple of cameo roles off the bench. He should be allowed to start against Italy, the better of the two opponents, to see what he can provide in front of goal given a higher-quality level of service than he usually gets at Athletic. His combination play with Raul Garcia has been excellent at times, and Inaki Williams and Iker Muniain have both shone in brief spells, but playing alongside David Silva and Nolito, or linking with Cesc Fabregas, is another level entirely.
The same has to go for Sergi Roberto. Del Bosque has called up two right-backs, so it seems almost certain that the Barcelona utility man is in the squad as a midfield reinforcement. While the likes of Miki San Jose, Mario Suarez, Ignacio Camacho and others have flitted in and out at times, Roberto has a real chance of being involved at the Euros due as much to his versatility as his impressive performances.
He might not be a starting option, but Sergi Roberto has shown himself this season to be both tactically astute and able to drive on play from midfield at times, when Barcelona's tempo is otherwise slowed and predictable through midfield. It could just be that he offers the same trait to Spain.
Koke, Thiago and Sergio Rico should all perhaps be getting game time too. None of the trio have been at their very best level for the entirety of this season, for a mixture of reasons, but to still have them in the squad at this point clearly indicates that del Bosque views them as capable, important to the long-term future of the squad and able to make an impact now.
As third-choice goalkeeper, Rico will have a watching brief this summer no matter who wins the battle to start between the waning powers of Iker Casillas and the extraordinary ability of David de Gea, but if he is called upon during the tournament, Spain don't want Rico having to make his debut off the bench in competitive action. He needs the experience of playing for Spain before that happens.
For a nation blessed with so many outstanding talents in the current era, Spain have some odd weak spots throughout the squad, at least in terms of depth. Properly utilising these next two fixtures to ensure the newest faces in the squad are up to the task of replacing those who have lifted trophies before them is top of the priority list for del Bosque in this international break-starting with Aduriz and Roberto.
Vicente del Bosque must take opportunity to test new faces in Spain squad
23rd March 2016. By Karl Matchett.