Plenty to ponder ahead of 2014 World Cup for Spain coach Del Bosque
MADRID /// While Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid’s internationals recover from their bruising Uefa Champions League final, Spain will begin soothing the bruised egos of Barcelona players following their worst season in six years.
Real and Atletico players were given the week to recover from Saturday’s final, won 4-1 by Real. Meanwhile, the seven Barcelona players selected in the squad that will likely go to the World Cup started preparing yesterday for Spain’s warm-up friendly against Bolivia, in Sevilla on Friday.
Spain head to Brazil with their Barcelona players in an uncertain state.
Barcelona failed to win a major trophy for the first time since 2007/08 as an ageing squad bothered by off-field problems let the Spanish league title slip from their grasp in dispirited fashion.
Barcelona could have secured a fifth title in six seasons but, after a good start to the season, the team lost steam under the weight of injuries, irregular form and indiscipline.
Barcelona limped to the finish with three draws over their last three games when a single victory would likely have seen them retain the title. The season-ending 1-1 draw against Atletico saw Barca surrender the title to Atletico, with the home players jeered off the Camp Nou pitch.
“I feel so bad, I just feel disappointment and disillusionment,” 30-year-old midfielder Andres Iniesta said. “The season has ended and so have a lot of things.”
Iniesta, who scored the extra-time winner in Spain’s 1-0 World Cup final win over the Netherlands in 2010, had a sub-par season, much like Barca teammates Cesc Fabregas and Pedro.
Midfielder Xavi, 34, meanwhile, was bothered by injuries for much of the season, as was full-back Jordi Alba. Defender Carles Puyol has retired.
Sergio Busquets also left the Atletico draw with injury, leaving fundamental pieces of Spain’s possession-based, combination game in question.
“The fundamental thing will be a good preparation and that’s why we are here now,” said Del Bosque, who tried to reassure fans by pointing to Spain’s depth. “At some positions we have two or, even, three options, so we should not be worried, there are many alternatives.”
Del Bosque was supposed to reduce his preliminary list of 30 players to 23 on Sunday but delayed a decision until after the Bolivia game.
Del Bosque said “nobody is discarded” for the final squad that he has until June 2 to name, according to Fifa regulations.
Diego Costa is the biggest doubt after the Brazilian-born Atletico striker appeared to re-injure his right hamstring early in the Champions League final and went off after only nine minutes.
Spain are vying to become the first nation to win four straight major international events after their World Cup win in South Africa was sandwiched between European Championship victories.
Barcelona’s players also went into Euro 2008 in poor form after a second straight season without a trophy. But they recovered to help Spain end a 44-year major trophy drought.
With many of these players now older, Spain head to Brazil in the middle of a transition.
Xavi’s health remains in question and Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara is unable to fill in because of injury. Koke remains a good shout to fill that playmaking role, but the Atletico midfielder will certainly arrive at Spain’s camp fatigued after a long season, like those players from Madrid.
Striker Fernando Torres, whose prospects of reaching Brazil have improved with Atletico striker Diego Costa struggling with a hamstring injury, expected all of his teammates to be ready by the team’s Group B opener against the Netherlands in Salvador.
“You forget about fatigue when you are playing for Spain at the World Cup,” Torres said yesterday. “It’s happened in other tournaments, too, and we managed well. Players from big clubs are used to long seasons.”
Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM