Friday, 7 March 2014

Spain’s continually indecisive selection policy


The Spanish selection policies over the past few years have seen a far larger turnover of players compared to other nations in Europe. Why can’t they make up their mind on selection?

After just the first 3 matches of this year's ENC Spain have already had 40 players in total feature in their matchday 23. For the first game against Russia they appeared to have their strongest starting side out, but for the next two matches against Belgium and Romania 8 and 9 new players were drafted in.

Against Belgium 7 of the 8 substitutes weren't involved in the last match, against Romania 6 of the 8 forwards were changed. There have been 3 different hookers in 3 matches, 3 different full backs and 5 different wingers. This during an important World Cup qualification year when most sides are generally trying to settle on the squad.
Players used by country in 6
Nations or ENC games since
the 2007 World Cup.

Whilst it's true that the ENC sides turnover of players can be higher than the 6 Nations with players missing to clubs, but the same is true of their opponents yet Spain’s player count has been considerably higher than any of them in recent years.

Since the 2007 World Cup, the Spanish have used 131 players in the ENC, no other side in either the 6 Nations or the ENC have even reached 100 players used over that period. And that's despite the likes of Georgia having better depth, dozens of absentees in years like 2012 where they played Ukraine out of the release window. Other countries like Romania have gone through several coaches and rebuilding phases as well, there's no doubt whatever way you look at it Spain's tally is abnormally high.

Debuts awarded since
the 2011 World Cup.
Part of the reason as to why the Spanish count is so high is thanks to the FER constantly changing their mind about whether they want a side full of French players of Spanish descent from the French leagues, or whether they want a more Spanish side from the Spanish league.

Since the last World Cup in 2011, Spain have given a debuts to a whopping 46 new players (over 20 of which have been foreigners) and when compared with the Eastern European sides, who despite having had more fixtures and some very experimental sides in worthless tournaments like the IRB Nations Cup, all have much less.

The FER needs to learn it’s lesson from this World Cup qualifying cycle. If they had devised a plan (preferably one that includes the best players) and stuck largely to it, then they might not be on their 3rd coach in 4 years and they might not look like the disorganised mess they have been through this year's tournament.

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