Spain played Costa Rica last Tuesday (Wednesday morning, Manila time), and it marked Iker Casillas’ 127th cap for Spain—officially making him the most capped Spanish international. However, it was not the best way for nuestro capitán to mark such—especially after allowing two Costa Rica goals in the first half, with the first goal completely a massive defensive lapse on Iker’s part. He wasn’t even barking out his usual instructions to his defenders—he just looked sad. Pobrecito!
Two late goals from David Silva and David Villa salvaged the World Champion’s pride, but given how Costa Rica played, the hosts surely deserved the win.
Now, there are pundits who say that Spain’s form in friendlies has been a cause for concern. I reckon this is brought about by the loss to England and the draw with Costa Rica. Now let’s break this down.
Spain’s form versus England was not their best, but it was still miles apart from England. Spain dominated possession and had more shots on goal—it was just an unlucky night. Meanwhile, the draw with Costa Rica was indicative that the Back Four remains to be quite an experiment. I wouldn’t say that the World Champion’s drop in form in friendlies is a huge concern (come on, everyone has a point to prove against them, but for the Euro 2012 qualifiers to date—spotless), but it just give Vicente del Bosque room to experiment with the future line-up and succession planning, so to speak.
First, Sergio Ramos as RB/CB. I’m a huge fan of The Ramos, and one of his strengths is being an enterprising right back (and remember when Theo Walcott ran into a wall named Sergio Ramos? That was epic.). However, in recent months, he’s also shown at Real Madrid that he can be a capable centerback, and this is something that Vicente del Bosque has picked up on. However, the partnership with either Gerard Pique or Carles Puyol still needs some work, and this was evident when Costa Rica just made them eat their dust.
Second, Alvaro Arbeloa as RB. Arbeloa has not seen much action in the World Cup, but he has since proven at club level that he’s more than a utility man, and Vicente del Bosque has been utilizing him more often. I think he just needs to have a bit more consistency in his game—either he’s got monster games or he just disappears on the pitch.
Third, Jordi Alba could well be the next starting LB. Clearly impressive during the friendly versus England, and here’s another one of those enterprising fullbacks. Between him and Nacho Monreal, I’d rate him higher. I do hope he gets more call-ups with La Seleccion.
Fourth, what about Jose Enrique? People in England say Jose Enrique should be called up for the Spanish National Team, and hey, there’s merit to the clamor. The Liverpool left back has proven to be a key piece in King Kenny’s battle team this season, and he could well be another stable option for Vicente del Bosque. He hasn’t had any call-ups yet for for the senior squad, but had made a handful of appearances in the U16s, U20s, and U21s. (Hey Pepe Reina, put in a good word for your fellow Spaniard, will you?)
Fifth, the Age Question. At the end of the day, this boils down to the question of ageism. Two of the starters in the World Cup-winning team are hitting their mid-30s, and Vicente del Bosque is indeed looking for capable replacements for Carles Puyol and Joan Capdevila. Only time will tell though if the defensive experiments will pay off in time for next year.
(And because it was a rather painful game to watch, I’ll just share pre-match photos of the team in Costa Rica.)