There is no question that Spain will start as favourites to win the Confederations Cup for the first time in their history. They were beaten rather surprisingly by the United States in the semi-finals the last time the competition was held in South Africa four years ago.
When you think of the national side, it is the abundance of passing talent and attacking threat that coach Vicente Del Bosque has at his disposal. However, they do have one of the finest central defenders around at the moment in Gerard Pique.
The Barcelona man only broke through into the international setup for the first time a few months before the 2009 Confederations Cup, but he quickly made himself an immovable object in the Spanish back four, regularly playing in a sturdy partnership with Sergio Ramos.
Whilst Ramos focuses on the rough and tumble elements of the game (just ask Robert Lewandowski), Pique’s main strength is making the challenge cleanly, then always looking positively to start another flowing Spanish attack. His style of play is more of the modern central defender, and it means he is highly respected within the team.
He is actually one of only four players to win the Champions League two years in a row for different teams, having been part of the Manchester United squad in Moscow 2008 before the return to first club Barcelona and 2009 victory.
If Spain are going to have a successful tournament in South America this time around, much of it will depend on whether Pique keeps the backline sorted. Having been part of the team that only conceded one goal in the entire European Championships last summer, the omens look good.
It has taken some time, but Fernando Torres is both back in the Spain squad and back in some kind of consistent and proven form.
The record breaking £50m move to Chelsea from Liverpool threatened to destroy his career. It became almost a shock if this once great Spaniard scored a goal – instead he was a player that appeared completely bereft of confidence.
Now though, that seems to have changed. There is still a way to go, and it is unlikely that he will ever return to his form at Liverpool that had him down as the best striker in England, maybe in the world. However, most people will just be delighted to see signs of the old Torres having returned.
While Premier League form is still under question, with just one goal after Christmas for Chelsea, and that came on the final day of the season, Torres was the Blues’ secret weapon in Europe.
He scored goals in the fruitless defence of the Champions League, was arguably Chelsea’s best player in the excursion to Japan for the World Club Championship which ultimately ended with no silverware, then turned on the fireworks in the Europa League run. Torres scored crucial goals in every round from the home leg of the last 16 encounter with Steaua Bucharest, and was back again on the minds of defenders of producing the skill capable to have them worried.
It seems strange to say that this is also the holder of the Golden Boot at Euro 2012, despite not being a regular in the starting XI. Del Bosque has often preferred playing an unrecognised striker through the middle, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas or David Silva playing in the false number nine position.
But Torres has won his place back, though he will face competition to stay there. His good friend David Villa is back to full fitness, Roberto Soldado is a favourite of the manager, and with the likes of Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente not included in this squad, but with the ability to be a serious contender for a berth in next summer’s World Cup party, Torres has a point to prove.
This is a massive tournament for El Nino. He is slowly getting there, and this could either be the final curtain for his international career or the start of something special once again.