David Villa, Marc Bartra and Nacho Monreal have all stressed the importance of this week’s friendlies as they look to secure places in Spain’s squad for next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
La Roja coach Vicente Del Bosque is expected to give most of his 23-man squad minutes over the two games, with a more experimental side playing on Saturday evening in Equatorial Guinea and a lineup full of players who featured in the World Cup win three years ago taking on South Africa on Tuesday in Johannesburg.
Villa, who scored five key goals in that tournament but has had an injury-interrupted time since, told AS that he was well aware of competition from other centre-forwards including Roberto Soldado, Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and Diego Costa.
"In this team there is a 'casting session' for all positions," Villa, 31, said. "It is good for everyone, although individually it means it takes a lot to get into the squad. This competition makes you demand more from yourself, and makes the team better. Any of [the others] could play well in the six or seven months that remain and go to the World Cup. 'La Seleccion' is in very good health."
Del Bosque’s options in central defence are perhaps not quite so strong, as shown by his decision to call up young Barcelona defender Marc Bartra, who has made less than 40 senior club appearances.
Bartra, 22, told reporters at a news conference that he had been surprised to receive the call, but was now focused on performing consistently so he could keep his place in the squad.
"It was a very nice surprise to be able to come with the senior team, a dream for me, the biggest thing to be here," said the Catalan defender. "I really appreciate what Del Bosque has done, the most important thing is to fulfill objectives and be consistent, work hard and keep up this level. Going to a World Cup with your national team is the biggest thing that can happen for a player, it would be very difficult because there are very good players in each position. The best there could be. The most important thing is to be ready to keep up your level so that the boss can have faith in me."
Arsenal left-back Monreal, who has worked his way into the squad since the 2010 competition, told Marca that he was a little concerned a recent lack of regular games at club level could harm his chances of being in Brazil next summer.
"I would like to be there, but I know it will not be easy, in part because I am not getting as many minutes as I would like at Arsenal," he said. "I am going to keep fighting and working because I really want to be at the World Cup. Moving to the Premier League was a step up in quality and a jump to a higher level. To be part of a team like Arsenal of course it helps."