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World Cup 2010: How many England players would make the Spain squad?
23 June 2010 @ 15:29

After the Swiss aberration, Spain are back to where they belong: the best team at this World Cup. Their standard of play against Honduras was back to its usual height and had Fernando Torres been a touch sharper, they would have scored five or more. While Argentina and Brazil have been impressive and Portugal thrashed seven past the North Koreans, that Spanish attacking performance was a defining moment of this World Cup. It set down a marker.

What must have been particularly discouraging for the rest was the depth of talent available to Vicente del Bosque. Andres Iniesta was out with a thigh strain but the Spain coach could still afford to use Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata off the bench.

With Fabio Capello trying to find players capable of freshening up his team for the crucial game with Slovenia it made for a depressing comparison. England’s squad looks desperately thin.

Spain have been the best international side in the world for the last three years – ignore the Fifa ranking of Brazil as No1 – and their first team is formidable. How many English players would make that XI? Ashley Cole for sure, but it is hard to make a case for anyone else.

What was driven home on Monday night, though, was how few English players would have a hope of making the Spain squad, let alone the team. Here’s the Spain squad and here’s the England squad. If you go through it systematically, like-for-like, you’ll see what I mean.

Not a single one of our three goalkeepers would make it. Spain’s No3, Victor Valdes, would easily be England’s No1. One England insider said to me before the tournament that Spain’s seventh-choice goalkeeper would be England’s first choice. He was only half-joking.

Spain’s only weak position is left-back, where Joan Capdevila is capable but not brilliant. Ashley Cole is certainly the superior player. But across the rest of the defence it looks less convincing. Rio Ferdinand and John Terry are not the players they were and Glen Johnson is miles behind Sergio Ramos at right back. You would probably take Terry ahead of Carlos Marchena as a back-up centre back to Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique.

The strength of the Spanish central midfield is ludicrous – Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Fabregas and Sergio Busquets. Steven Gerrard would get in ahead of Javi Martinez but that’s it. None of the English wingers are better than David Silva, Jesus Navas or Mata.

In attack you have the superb pairing of Torres and David Villa to contend with. Then Pedro Rodriguez provides real pace and trickery and can also play out wide. Wayne Rooney would go ahead of Fernando Llorente, the Bilbao target man, but I can’t see any of the other three – Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey – making it.

So out of the 23, if you go on a like-for-like basis, I reckon only four players – A Cole, Terry, Gerrard and Rooney – would make the Spanish squad. That’s the gulf in class Capello has to contend with.

Source: The Telegraph

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