Spain have been installed as favourites to be the first nation to retain a European Championship, but their preparations have been far from smooth.
Confirmation this week came that Chelsea striker Fernando Torres had been called into the squad after some doubt as to whether manager Vicente del Bosque would take him to Poland and Ukraine.
The striker was left out of the squad for a friendly with Venezuela in February this year, with Del Bosque citing a poor run of form as the reason for his omission.
The manager was true to his word when saying it did not mean the end of Torres’ Euro 2012 chances, but the choice to take the £50million striker with him appears to be contradicting the comments he made after dropping him against Venezuela.
“Torres is not in good form and we believed in this case it was better if he didn't come,” Del Bosque said.
“He is a lad we appreciate a lot and it pains me to leave him out but I wanted to be fair.
“But this doesn't mean anything. This is not a definitive list for Euro ”
If leaving Torres out for that squad was 'fair', then what was the thinking behind taking him over Valencia’s Roberto Soldado?
Soldado has scored 27 times this season compared to Torres’ 11 strikes and will be feeling more than a little hard done by.
The other strikers being taken along are Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo, neither of them are even close to the amount of experience Torres has at international level.
David Villa’s absence through injury could have been the clincher for Torres, as it meant he became the most senior striker available to Del Bosque.
Nobody in their right mind could deny the assertion that Torres has had a poor season at Stamford Bridge and could not have been entirely surprised had he been cast aside.
Experience is something Spain will have considerably less of when they play their first fixture against Italy on June 10, as Villa has been joined by Carles Puyol on the list o fthose missing the tournament.
The Barcelona captain has had to withdraw after being unable to fully recover from a knee injury that kept him out for the final six weeks of the season.
Spain are one of the few sides who can accommodate satisfactorily with the absence of two of their best players, but Puyol’s leadership will be sorely missed and Iker Casillas admitted as much.
“I spoke with him on Tuesday, he is upset and sad, but understood that he had to take a break,” the Real Madrid goalkeeper told reporters.
“I agree with coach Vicente del Bosque that this is a serious loss, not only on the field, but also when it comes to the group – he is one of the captains, together with Xavi and myself.”
So Torres managed to miss he cut but he does not deny he could quite as easily have been left behind based on his form throughout the season.
Villa being absent could even mean ‘El Nino’ gets the nod to start as the central striker in the 4-2-3-1 formation favoured by Del Bosque, it would also see the former Liverpool striker assume the same position he had when scoring the winning goal in the final of the previous tournament.
“I was left out of the squad [in February] and that was tough. I started to understand that things were serious, that I wasn't getting much playing time with my club and that if things carried on that way I wouldn't be going to Euro 2012,” he told reporters at the team’s pre-tournament training camp.
“Vicente has put his faith in me and now I need to show him I am ready to play whenever he thinks it necessary. I hope to be able to give the team the best of me.”
Torres claimed to be energised by making the cut in the end, but was possibly being overly optimistic when he suggested that his restricted playing time could make him even fresher for the competition.
“When you see yourself missing out and then you are selected you are more excited even than the first day,” he added.
“I have arrived feeling fresh because I haven't had the same physical burden as the others and I am in good shape.
“I would have liked to have played more for my club but the important thing is that everything works out in the end.”
While it is never a case of hope over expectation when it comes to the Spanish, Torres’ has nothing more to hold on to when convincing himself that he may have some discernable impact on his country’s fortunes.
Lady luck has already looked kindly on his club in the Champions League final, but it may be one stretch too far for a striker who once seemed invincible but it now struggling to find the pace and confidence that made him such a feared opponent.
Spain, meanwhile, are rarely ever in need of luck and will still be the team any potential winner has to defeat if the are to take their crown.
Mentality could come into play for a side that are missing two of their most influential stars, possibly the most influential in centre-back Puyol.
Spain could well be asked the sternest questions yet on their credentials as the world’s best, but they’ve rarely failed to find answers in the past.
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