MADRID (Reuters) - Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is optimistic record scorer David Villa will return from a broken leg in time for Euro 2012 and says his struggling strike partner Fernando Torres still has a chance to prove he deserves a place in the squad.
Del Bosque said the latest news on Villa’s injury, sustained at December’s Club World Cup in Japan, was positive and he would give the Barcelona forward as much leeway as possible to get back to full fitness for the tournament in Ukraine and Poland starting in June.
“The people around him think, and he himself thinks, that he will be there,” Del Bosque said in an interview with Reuters at the Spanish soccer federation’s headquarters outside Madrid.
“We will wait until the last minute because we are talking about the best goalscorer that we currently have in Spain, the most reliable,” the former Real Madrid coach added.
“He has in the recent past been one of the architects of Spain’s goals, so we will wait.”
Villa’s form in Spain’s last two major tournaments has been outstanding and his goals - he has 51 in 82 national team appearances - helped them to victory at Euro 2008 and a first World Cup triumph in 2010.
Torres, by contrast, has suffered a spectacular loss of form since joining Chelsea from Liverpool just over a year ago and Del Bosque dropped him from the squad for last week’s friendly against Venezuela.
Roberto Soldado was recalled in his place and the Valencia striker boosted his chances of a place at Euro 2012 by scoring a superb hat-trick in a 5-0 win after coming on at halftime.
“We still have time for him (Torres) to prove that he should return to the national team,” Del Bosque said.
”Fernando has been a fixture and is practically a fixture in our squads, in all the squads except the last one.
“The last squad was in no way a final decision on anyone, least of all on Fernando.”
Dressed in suit and tie and with his distinctive walrus moustache bristling, Del Bosque was happy to accept Spain’s status as favourites to retain their continental crown and become the first nation to win back-to-back European titles with a World Cup in between.
Netherlands and Germany - who finished second and third respectively at the World Cup in South Africa - were also strong candidates for Euro 2012 success, added the avuncular 61-year-old, who was a player with Real Madrid and Spain.
As well as Villa, Spain retain a host of players from Euro 2008 including goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas, defenders Sergio Ramos and Carles Puyol and midfielders Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso and David Silva.
“We have almost four years now with a stable national team, a national team that has not suffered major changes and our playing system and the things we do instinctively are fairly well set,” Del Bosque said.
”I believe we have a team that is based on good relations between the players, which is fundamental for victory.
”Yes we have quality, yes we have the right playing system and yes we have the passion necessary to compete.
“We have to proceed with caution and with an eye on not being over-confident. Being humble and modest.”
The apparently serene nature of Spain’s preparations are in stark contrast to the uncertainty surrounding England’s bid after the resignation of their Italian coach Fabio Capello last month, with the FA yet to appoint a permanent successor.
Del Bosque said he found Capello’s departure “extremely strange” three months before a major tournament but added that England still had a decent chance.
“I think Fabio went at the right time for him after suffering those three years of adapting,” Del Bosque said.
“Of course England can win, they have excellent players. England can put out a fantastic team, a great team. There is no doubt they have what it takes to be European champions.”
Del Bosque is planning to continue as Spain coach until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and said his current job will almost certainly be his last before retirement.
His more immediate priority is to lead Spain to a third consecutive major title but warned that the longer a team carries on winning the harder it becomes to maintain.
“What I want is for the Spanish people to feel proud of the national team,” he said.
“We are excited about the trip. We will fight and we will run ourselves into the ground.”
Spain won all eight of their Euro 2012 qualifiers to finish top of their group. They are in Group C for the finals along with Italy, Ireland and Croatia.
Editing by Mark Meadows