U21 stars handed Spain chance
Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke, Barcelona winger Cristian Tello and Real Sociedad centre-back Inigo Martinez have all been named in a relatively experimental Spain squad for August 15’s friendly in Ecuador.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has given a rest to regulars including Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodriguez, Juan Mata and Xabi Alonso for the game, which kicks off in Guayaquil at 22.30 Spanish time.
"We are at the start of the season and many things have come together that we must take into account,” Del Bosque said. “It is a friendly, but it is still an international game which is useful for us to get close to September 6, when we play in Finland, which is a key date for the start of the season."
Del Bosque said Koke and Tello, both part of the Spain side that won the European Under-21 Championship this summer, deserved recognition.
"Koke comes from playing very well for his club,” he added. “He is very complete in his work as a central midfielder and he does, practically, everything. Tello is a unique player, for his pace, he is more irregular, but he gives us other alternatives.”
Gerard Pique has been left out as he is suspended for Spain’s next World Cup qualifier -- in Finland on September 6 -- due to his sending off during June’s Confederations Cup final defeat to Brazil. As a result, Sociedad’s Martinez, also part of this summer’s Spain Under-squad, was preferred.
"Pique is not coming because he cannot play against Finland and we preferred to bring someone who, in case he has to play that day, we would already have had at our side,” Del Bosque said. “We have supported those who made us Under-21 champions."
Up front, new Manchester City centre-forward Alvaro Negredo has been recalled, along with Juventus signing Fernando Llorente. Roberto Soldado, who has just joined Tottenham, has been left out, as have Atletico Madrid’s David Villa and Chelsea’s Fernando Torres.
Other players whose futures in the squad had been in doubt -- Pepe Reina, Alvaro Arbeloa and Raul Albiol -- were all included in the 21-man list, with younger options David De Gea, Martin Montoya and Dani Carvajal overlooked for now.
The Spain squad is to meet on Monday morning in Madrid, before flying together across the Atlantic. Since summer 2010 very few of Spain’s friendlies have been at home, while the World and European champions have travelled to the USA, Mexico, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Panama and Puerto Rico for games.
Such long distance trips are thought to be unpopular with La Roja’s players and their clubs, and been criticised as money-making junkets in the Spanish press, but have been defended by Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol president Angel Maria Villar as part of a responsibility the team has to visit other Spanish-speaking countries and communities.
Del Bosque echoed those sentiments.
"We have a responsibility,” he said. “From our recent successes, our football is admired, loved and we cannot go through the motions just to fulfil a formality. We will do things well. This will be useful to prepare for September 6, and useful too for the players, those who have a big workload with their teams. We will try so that they come back well for the start of their seasons."
Spain squad to face Ecuador on August 15
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Victor Valdes (Barcelona) Defenders: Alvaro Arbeloa (Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Sergio Ramos (Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona) Midfielders Javi Martinez (Bayern), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Jesus Navas (Manchester City), David Silva (Manchester City), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona) Forwards: Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City), Fernando Llorente (Juventus), Cristian Tello (Barcelona).