Spain’s striking dilemma: Who to take to the World Cup?

Vicente del Bosque is the envy of most other national managers as he has top-quality players to select from in every position on the pitch.

As Spain look to retain their world champions status this summer in Brazil, picking a squad and deciding who to leave out will be the massively successful coach’s first major job ahead of the tournament.

Del Bosque has named a squad this week for a friendly fixture against Italy on Wednesday, with one area of major contention – centre forward.

At Euro 2012 and since, Spain have largely played with a false nine as the furthest man forward.

This is largely due to the sheer number of top-quality midfielders in the Spanish ranks, with the false nine’s creativity utilised to bring others into the game from deep.

Cesc Fàbregas has been deployed in his position more often than not, while Swansea’s Michu was also given an opportunity to operate in the role in his solitary one cap against Belarus last year. Despite having all the attributes to fulfill the position, long-standing injuries this season mean that the talented forward is likely to miss out this summer.

With the false nine ploy likely to be used again this summer, out-and-out centre forwards may well be a Plan B for Del Bosque.

That said, the Iberian nation have a multitude of experienced and highly able number nines that could sucessfully fit into their side.

For the match against Italy, naturalised ‘Spaniard’ Diego Costa has finally received the nod and will most likely make his La Roja debut on his home club ground, Estadio Vicente Calderón, in midweek.

Brazilian-born Costa’s inclusion has split the Spanish masses, with the 25-year-old already representing the South American nation twice in friendly fixtures. However, with his goalscoring exploits in La Liga this season for Atlético Madrid, Costa could well be a devastating asset for the world champions in the land of his birth this summer.

Álvaro Negredo and Cesc FàbregasAlongside the Atletico forward, Álvaro Negredo has also been named in the contingent to face Italy. The Manchester City forward has been in outstanding form for the English side this season and has also weighed in with goals when given the chance at national level.

Negredo was part of the Euro 2012 squad that won the competition in Poland and Ukraine, but spent most of his time on the fringes. He only managed a total of 57 minutes on the pitch during the tournament, but has solidified a place in the squad and increased his importance since.

In all honesty, apart from the injured Gerard Piqué, anyone not in the group to face Italy will have a job on their hands to make the World Cup squad.

Costa and Negredo clearly are in the preferences of Del Bosque and with Fàbregas in the squad as a false nine option, La Roja look set in their attacking options.

This will leave a number of top-class strikers disappointed.

Capped 106 times by his nation, Fernando Torres would have hoped that improved mid-season form would have given him the nod, but the Chelsea man now faces an uphill battle to be involved.

Fernando Llorente has worked his way into the Juventus team after a slow start to life in Turin and has ten goals in 18 starts for the current Italian champions.

Roberto Soldado has seven goals in 12 caps for Spain, but his stock has dropped so dramatically since a summer move to Tottenham that his chances of making the World Cup are extremely slim.

David Villa has played his part in Atlético’s resurgence this season and with 56 international goals is his nation’s highest-ever goalscorer. However, given the quality at Del Bosque’s disposal, it appears that there is no room for sentimentality.

These able forwards join the likes of Juan Mata, Isco, David de Gea and Álvaro Arbeloa on the outskirts of an historic Spanish squad, who could seemingly field two national teams capable of winning the World Cup.

The intense competition for places in the striking berths will only increase the pressure on the men selected to do the business.

If Costa or Negredo do not convince Del Bosque of their merits for a certain game in Brazil, the Spain coach has the option to play a system without any strikers in the team, despite the number of top-class forwards he can call on.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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