Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque released the list of 23 players for the upcoming World Cup Qualification game against Finland and the friendly match against Chile. By now, soccer fans have almost memorized Spain’s roster because of its consistency and because of the team’s success in recent years. After the Confederations Cup, however, Del Bosque has begun to slowly include younger players who have been waiting for a chance to be on the senior squad, in order to freshen up the team and give somewhat of a break to the veterans who also have to deal with three tournaments with their clubs.
For the veterans, this World Cup cycle that culminates next summer in Brazil will, most likely, be their last one, and in a very wise and logical decision, Del Bosque is starting to form the new Spain squad that will attempt to match the historic results of the current generation.
The future is uncertain for players like Xavi Hernandez (33 years of age), David Villa (31), Xabi Alonso (31), Fernando Torres (29, although his decline is more performance-related), Carles Puyol (35), Alvaro Arbeloa (30) and the three goalkeepers Iker Casillas (32), Pepe Reina (31) and Victor Valdes (31). All of these were key pieces in Spain’s victory at the Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but are closer to the dusk of their international soccer careers.
In most cases, making that transition from one generation to the next can be awkward and troublesome, leading to underwhelming performances. Luckily for Del Bosque — and for Spain fans in general — Spain’s youth system has developed young prospects who are ready to contribute at the senior level. To find those players, it’s as simple as looking at Spain’s roster that won this year’s UEFA European U-21 Championship, showing a level of game, cohesiveness and maturity beyond their age.
Some of them are already known worldwide despite being under 23 or 24 years old. You may recognize names like Isco, Koke, Nacho Fernandez, Iñigo Martinez and Thiago Alcantara, and if you do recognize them, it’s because they are valuable pieces at their club teams without even being 25 years old, and also because these players have been called up by Del Bosque since the Confederations Cup to play for the senior team. Or even, perhaps, because they were part of the backbone of the under-23 European championship team.
Other players have played for the senior side but are not on the list for the upcoming fixtures include David De Gea, Cesar Azpilicueta, Martin Montoya, Javi Martinez and Cristian Tello. And then there are players from the under-23 squad who have not been included yet on the senior team, but who are waiting patiently for their well-deserved chance, like Asier Illarramendi, Alvaro Morata, Iker Muniain, Suso, Oliver Torres, Gerard Deulofeu and Jese Rodriguez.
For those who are sick and tired of Spain’s success, don’t expect them to drop their level any time soon. With the future generation of players, the reigning two-time European and world champions will continue to battle for international soccer dominance with Brazil, Germany, Argentina and other world-class teams. Brazil 2014 is coming soon, and Spain could very well become back-to-back world champions.