Saturday 16 December 2017

Golden generation have eyes on historic treble

Fernando Torres (left) may be handed the striker's role by Spain manager Del Bosque
Fernando Torres (left) may be handed the striker's role by Spain manager Del Bosque

IT has never been done before but Spain have got their eyes set firmly on landing an historic treble of major tournaments and they would have to go down as the greatest team in international football if Vicente del Bosque can bring another title celebration to Madrid.

Talk of Spain's lack of bottle and constant underachieving bit the dust when they won the 2008 European Championship and success at the last World Cup has handed this golden generation the chance of a lifetime.

Winning is always the most important aspect of sport at this level but the way Spain went about becoming champions has seen them celebrated across the world with La Roja showing it is possible to play the beautiful game and still triumph.

Too many managers were leaning towards power and speed rather than pure technical ability and yet Spain have always stuck to their passing beliefs with outstanding results in the past four years.

So with seemingly everything in their favour, why are the drifting favourites so uneasy in the market?

Quite simply, David Villa's injury which has ruled him out of the tournament means the layers are out in force ready to take on the impressive Iberians.

Who will score the goals without Villa? It's been a question on lips of everyone since he broke his shin in December and one that has probably kept del Bosque awake at night since the Barcelona forward confirmed he would not be able to participate in the tournament.

At first glance there does not appear to be that big a problem.

Real Madrid and Barca racked up a ridiculous 235 goals between them in La Liga and eight of the likely starting 11 ply their trade for the Clasico rivals.

However, delve deeper; Real Madrid's front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema notched 99 of their 121 goals and Lionel Messi got 50 on his own for Barcelona, whose top Spanish scorer was ten-goal Xavi. Real's leading Spaniard who is in this squad is threegoal Sergio Ramos.

There has been a suggestion of using David Silva or Cesc Fabregas in the false No. 9 position that Messi has made famous at club level but the Argentinian is a one-off who makes a difficult role look supremely easy and del Bosque is likely to be forced into selecting either Fernando Torres or Fernando Llorente instead of Villa.

It's hardly like having to choose between Emile Heskey and Mido but both have question marks.

Llorente, who is relatively untried at this level, has never played in the Champions League and is at his best when getting on the end of crosses, but Spain rarely go wide with the narrow Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Silva preferring the delicate pass route to goal. Torres is different. At his best he would be the ideal player to play up front and feed off the through balls, although seven goals in 46 Premier League appearances since signing for Chelsea highlights how far El Nino's stock has fallen since he was the hero in the Euro 2008 final.

History says the striker won't have to score that many whatever happens.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas did not concede a goal in the knockout stages en route to success in the Euros and World Cup and La Roja should go close to further glory.

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