Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Fierce competition for places in Spain’s frontline for Euro 2012 has increased the pressure on misfiring Chelsea striker Fernando Torres.
Some are even suggesting the hero of Spain’s triumph at Euro 2008 may not even make the squad for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine next year and have speculated coach Vicente del Bosque could pick strikers including Alvaro Negredo (pictured) and Fernando Llorente ahead of the former Liverpool man.
The world and continental champions thrashed Liechtenstein 6-0 on Tuesday to qualify for the finals, but Torres was left to watch from the stands as David Villa, Spain’s all-time top scorer, and Negredo both netted doubles.
Vicente del Bosque has been given a welcome more befitting a rock star than a soccer coach in his native Salamanca this week, where his World Cup-winning Spain team play Lithuania in a Euro 2012 qualifier.
Thousands of cheering and screaming Salmantinos, as locals are known, packed the modest Helmantico stadium on Thursday to hail the mild-mannered 59-year-old and watch their heroes such as captain Iker Casillas train for Friday’s Group I match.
Trying to read anything into Spain’s 4-1 defeat in Argentina is tough considering it was a friendly. Did the world champions take it too lightly? Was Del Bosque right to field Pepe Reina in goal with fringe players Nacho Monreal, Alvaro Arbeloa and Carlos Marchena in the back four for a match that was never going to be that ‘friendly’?
Or was it that Argentina really got it together under new coach Sergio Batista?
Spain started poorly conceding two goals in the first 13 minutes and the third came after an embarrassing slip from Reina in the 34th, but they responded well in the second half and hit the woodwork three times overall.
It’s hard to believe Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has yet to win a cap for Spain and that he isn’t even in the running for the World Cup finals this summer.
The 28-year-old has been Barca’s number one since the 2003-4 season and was a fundamental cog in Pep Guardiola’s Barca machine that swept to an unprecedented six trophies last year.
Spain’s qualification for next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa has brought a welcome distraction to a nation suffering more than most of its European peers from the economic crisis.
Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Estonia put the European champions through as Group Five winners and Vicente del Bosque’s highly-fancied side will be competing in their ninth straight finals since 1978 and attempting to win the World Cup for the first time.