How the mighty have fallen. Fernando Torres and David Villa once formed one of world football's most lethal strike partnerships having helped Spain break a 44 year trophy drought in delivering the Euro 2008 title and following it up with World Cup glory in 2010.
Torres also claimed the golden boot as he helped La Furia Roja defend their European championship at Euro 2012. As we look towards the Confederations Cup later this year in the lead up to Brazil 2014 which is fast approaching, the defending champions have some tough decisions to make regarding their frontline.
Once upon a time Torres was one of the most feared strikers on the planet, firstly for Atletico Madrid and then Liverpool, with his pace and precise finishing sending shivers down the spine of some of the world's best defenders. That was some three years ago now, and today in 2013 he is a shadow of his former self in the blue of Chelsea in what is becoming a nightmare stint with the west Londoners.
He was left out of Spain's squad for the recent friendly against Uruguay, which is a big worry given that the World Cup is only 15 months away. His pace and finishing, which are his two biggest weapons, seem to have dissipated with confidence at an all time low for Spain's No.9. One feels that he won't hold onto that coveted number for much longer for the national team if things don't change drastically in the near future.
Spain's all time record scorer David Villa has endured the most difficult period of his career over the last 18 months. After missing virtually a year of football after breaking his leg in 2011, the former Valencia hitman hasn't been the same with a combination of poor form and strong competition hampering his bid to get near his best.
With age becoming more of an issue as he turns 32 in December, it is unlikely Villa will ever reach his best again given his woes with form and fitness, which raises questions as to whether he warrants a spot in the national team.
However, there is still time for both Torres and Villa to find the form required to nail down a spot for the World Cup. The fact that Villa has netted an impressive 12 times in limited appearances and Torres is on track to bag at least 20 goals by the end of the campaign for a much needed confidence boost, are good signs.
In saying that, Spain demonstrated during Euro 2012 that they do not need the services of an out and out striker to be successful, as Cesc Fabregas was utilised as a false nine, which propelled them to a tournament triumph. That does not augur well for Torres and Villa as Vicente Desl Bosque also has the likes of David Silva, Juan Mata and even perhaps Andres Iniesta available to play as a false nine if he were to choose that path for the World Cup.
Additionally, Del Bosque also has alternative options up front in Fernando Llorente, Pedro, Roberto Soldado and Alvaro Negredo who are also in the frame for selection for the World Cup, and are more importantly in form except for Llorente.
At times during Euro 2012 Spain were guilty of profligacy in front of goal, which can be put down to the advent of the false nine system as well as Fernando Torres. This will mean that as an insurance policy Del Bosque will almost certainly have to use a traditional striker at some point.
It will be intriguing to see whether Spain regard reputation or form as the deciding factor in their selection of the strikeforce for the World Cup. Whilst it may have been inconceivable three or four years ago to think Fernando Torres and David Villa would be fighting for their international careers with a World Cup just around the corner, the harsh truth is due to poor form, injuries and age this has become the reality.
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