Del Bosque mulls 'false nine' option

MALAGA, Spain Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:38pm IST

Spain's national soccer team coach Vicente del Bosque attends a news conference in Malaga, southern Spain, February 28, 2012. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Spain's national soccer team coach Vicente del Bosque attends a news conference in Malaga, southern Spain, February 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jon Nazca

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MALAGA, Spain (Reuters) - Fernando Torres's Spain team mates are convinced the overlooked Chelsea forward will win back his place in the national team but with so many superb ball players to call on coach Vicente del Bosque has the option of doing without a striker altogether at Euro 2012.

The world and European champions arrived in Malaga on Tuesday for their final match before Del Bosque names his squad for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, a friendly against Venezuela on Wednesday.

The former Real Madrid coach announced on Friday he had reluctantly dropped Torres, who has suffered a spectacular loss of form since moving to Chelsea from Liverpool just over a year ago, and told Tuesday's news conference playing without a traditional striker was a realistic possibility.

"Against Scotland we experimented without any reference points in the forward line," Del Bosque said of October's Euro 2012 qualifier in Alicante, which Spain won 3-1 thanks to two goals from David Silva and one from David Villa.

"These are options that we have and that we should utilise," he added. "This richness in our play is beneficial and works well for us."

Spain have a number of gifted attacking midfielders who could fill the role of what is known in the Iberian nation as the "false number nine".

As well as Silva, Del Bosque also has Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Juan Mata on his roster, while Villa is another possibility should he recover from leg surgery in time.

The system typically includes three players across the front line who make darting runs on to short, quick passes and is one that Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola often relies on.

Teenager Iker Muniain, who is in the senior squad for the first time for the Venezuela game, also has a proven ability to find the net operating as a roving forward and making intelligent runs into the penalty area.

"We have to adapt to the playing style the coach maps out for us and we have no problem moulding our play to his ideas," Muniain said.

"We have played in many different ways, with a number nine or without, and Spain has always maintained a high level, which is the most important thing," playmaker Santi Cazorla added.

SCORING TOUCH

If Del Bosque does opt to deploy a traditional striker and decides not to give Torres another chance, he can call on the towering Fernando Llorente, the powerful Alvaro Negredo or the tenacious Roberto Soldado.

Soldado replaced Torres in the latest squad, recalled after five years on the sidelines after playing twice in 2007. He said he was sure Torres would rediscover his scoring touch.

"He is popular in the dressing room and has been a fundamental part of the team and I am sure he will be again," Soldado said.

"In the meantime, I am determined to make the most of the opportunity I have and to justify the confidence the coach has shown in me."

Cazorla added of Torres: "Nobody doubts that he will find his confidence again. I am sending him a lot of encouragement and a big hug, because he is a fundamental part of the side."

Del Bosque said he expected a tough game against Venezuela.

"They have some players who play outside Venezuela and that makes them stronger," he said.

"I expect them to be well set on the pitch, with an attractive playing style.

"It's good for us to play against such an opponent considering what we have coming up (Euro 2012)."

Spain won all eight qualifiers for the continental championship and finished top of Group I.

They are in Group C for the finals along with Italy, Ireland and Croatia.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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