Del Bosque has selection 'headache'

David de Gea, turning away a shot from Ukraine's Ruslan Rotan, produced an inspired performance to bolster his prospects of replacing veteran goalie Iker Casillas.
David de Gea, turning away a shot from Ukraine's Ruslan Rotan, produced an inspired performance to bolster his prospects of replacing veteran goalie Iker Casillas.PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV • Spain coach Vicente del Bosque acknowledged he faces a tough task in deciding who to leave out of his 23-man squad for Euro 2016, with a particular embarrassment of riches in midfield.

The holders wrapped up their Group C qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win away to Ukraine on Monday. He had the luxury of fielding an experimental side with Spain already through as section winners.

While the eight defenders and four forwards may be easier to select, among the midfielders who will be pushing for a place at the tournament in France next year are Cesc Fabregas, Isco, Thiago Alcantara, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Andres Iniesta, Santi Cazorla, David Silva, Juan Mata, Javi Martinez, Mikel San Jose and Bruno Soriano.

Most of those players would make it into any national team but four are likely to miss out as Spain chase an unprecedented third consecutive continental title.

"It was good that we were able to look at some different players and test whether they will be of use," del Bosque said. "It's going to be a problem choosing 23 players but there is still a long way to go."

At the back, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has also given his international manager a dilemma. His fine performance against Ukraine gives plenty of new ammunition to those who believe he should be La Roja's No. 1 instead of Iker Casillas.

On a night when the hosts had 25 shots at goal - 13 on target, de Gea made several big saves and Spain's sports media were asking whether he should already replace Casillas.

"What more does de Gea have to do?" asked Javier Estepa in Marca.

"The time is now."

Casillas, Spain's captain and most-capped player with 164 appearances, led the Iberian nation as they swept to consecutive Euro titles in 2008 and 2012 with a maiden World Cup triumph in between.

But he was widely criticised after Spain crashed out of last year's World Cup finals in Brazil in the group stage and, at 34, appears to be past his prime.

De Gea, in contrast, looks to be going from strength to strength despite just seven caps.

"I will try to be at my best and make things difficult for the coach," he told reporters after his heroics helped Spain reach eight competitive matches in a row without conceding for the first time.

"What I want is to maintain the line I had last season when I think I was at a great level. It's tough to stay at that level, I want to keep growing and improving."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Del Bosque has selection 'headache''. Print Edition | Subscribe