Spain Camp Focus – From Little Pedro to big part of Spain’s World Cup dreams

Spanish football followers could have been forgiven for doing several double takes throughout Barcelona’s La Liga winning season. While the names of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta would have been familiar ones to onlookers, it was the repeated sightings of someone called Pedro that caught the eye, such was the frequency of his appearances on the Catalan club’s scoresheets.

The 22-year-old winger hit the net 23 times in 2009/10, ensuring the likes of Thierry Henry, Bojan Krkic and often Zlatan Ibrahimovic did not get a look in. The winger became a fixture in Coach Pep Guardiola’s plans, almost to the extent that he was one of the first names on the teamsheet. He had played a bit-part role in the previous season – the man who came on for the mesmerising Iniesta in the 2009 Champions League final when Guardiola had decided that the midfielder had tortured Manchester United enough. Pedro scored in all six of the different competitions Barca played in during the last campaign including the winner in the UEFA Super Cup final and a last minute equaliser in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. The former Barcelona B team player, who upgraded his name from ‘Pedrito’ – ‘Little Pedro’ once he broke into the first team, had completed his transformation into a big player for the Catalans.

Born in Santa Cruz on the Canary Islands, the winger has now earned a place in Vicente Del Bosque’s final squad for the World Cup. Alongside two other uncapped players – his Barca teammate Victor Valdes and Athletic Bilbao’s Javi Martinez – his name was one of the more surprising inclusions in a group that was always going to be tough to cut down from 30 to 23. Marcos Senna, Dani Guiza and Santi Cazorla, all veterans of the Euro 2008 win, were all omitted, something that underlines the quality available to the favourites. If their rivals were not aware of how good Spain were, then they surely are now.

Fernando Torres is not leaving Liverpool according to Pepe Reina, while Cesc Fabregas is leaving Arsenal according to everyone else. Both are still working hard to be fit for Spain’s group opener against Switzerland on June 16, with the latest information claiming that both should make it. For now the squad is based at the Las Rosas facilities in Madrid ahead of a trip to Innsbruck for altitude training. Once there, they will face Saudi Arabia on Saturday and Korea Republic a week on Thursday. Neither Torres nor Fabregas are tipped to play, giving an opportunity for the likes of Pedro and Martinez to stake a claim for a place.

Should the Arsenal skipper complete his ‘dream’ move back to Barcelona before the finals – which is so much of a dream that he left the club when he was 16 – then it would take the number of Barca players in Spain’s 23 to nine, following David Villa’s pretty cheap £34.2m switch to the Nou Camp from Valencia. Considering how Catalans pride themselves on being a separate nation – and there are few prouder of that than Carles Puyol and Xavi – then the potential of a split in the squad has been mooted. That seems hugely fanciful though, especially considering the togetherness that the Spanish displayed in winning Euro 2008, and there are 15 survivors from that squad heading to the World Cup. Fierce Catalans might not like it, but those Barca players will be committed Spaniards in South Africa.

Those pre-tournament friendlies in Innsbruck, plus a final match against Poland in Murcia just three days before the World Cup kicks off, will be used as a chance for Del Bosque to iron out any potential flaws in his squad, and to pick his best starting line-up, a difficult task given the strength of the squad at his disposal. The emergence of the likes of Pedro only makes things more difficult for the veteran boss, but as we discussed last time, his are excellent problems to have. The winger is not ‘Little Pedro’ any more, and after his big impact at Barcelona over the last 12 months, he has presented Del Bosque with a big case for an inclusion in Spain’s starting line-up at the World Cup. The trouble for the veteran boss is, so have his other 22 players.

Final 23-man Spain squad

Goalkeepers
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
Jose Reina (Liverpool)
Victor Valdes (Barcelona)

Defenders
Raul Albiol (Real Madrid)
Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid)
Joan Capdevila (Villarreal)
Carlos Marchena (Valencia)
Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
Carlos Puyol (Barcelona)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Midfielders
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Juan Mata (Valencia)
Jesus Navas (Sevilla)
David Silva (Valencia)
Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao)

Forwards
David Villa (Valencia)
Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona)
Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao)

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