Barring any alien intervention, the Spanish Euro 2008 winning squad will be, at its core, intact when Vicente del Bosque and his team travel to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This means that the likes of Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez, David Villa and Fernando Torres will certainly have their plane tickets already booked, while other less fortunate suitors have another chance to impress at their clubs before being able to convince del Bosque that their presence at this summer’s event would be most profitable.

One wild card that is still up for grabs however is the spot of third goalkeeper. With Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas and Liverpool’s Pepe Reina all but a certainty, the identity of the third custodian for La Furia Roja remains a mystery for now. That said; here’s a look, in alphabetical order, at some of the potential candidates:

1) Daniel Aranzubia (30 years old; Deportivo La Coruna)

Why: One of the primary reasons why “Depor” are having a wonderful season so far, Aranzubia’s performances make him worthy of a national team call-up. Should Deportivo clinch a Champions League position come the end of the season, then one of the major reasons behind this feat would undoubtedly be Aranzubia.

Why Not: The chances of the 30-year-old making the cut remain farfetched. Aranzubia has only been capped once before, in a friendly against Andorra. During that special occasion, it took injuries to both Iker Casillas and Santiago Canizares – who came in for Casillas himself – for him to make the pitch.

2) Sergio Asenjo (20 years old; Atletico Madrid)

Why: Undoubtedly the greatest goalkeeping prospect in Spain, Sergio Asenjo could fittingly be the country’s third-choice keeper in South Africa. His impressive CV in Spain’s Under-17, 19, 20, and 21 squads makes it only natural that the next step should be a call-up to the senior team. Furthermore, he would clearly fulfill del Bosque’s penchant for young and hungry players.

Why Not: Inconsistency so far this season has prevented Sergio Asenjo from displaying the class that made him known when he was plying his trade at Real Valladolid. The Palencia-born shot stopper has admitted that he is having difficulties adapting to his new club, and that his new team is yet to see the best of him. Furthermore, the growing fanfare centred on fellow keeper and Atletico player David de Gea will make it harder for Asenjo to hold a first team berth at the Mattress Makers.

3) David de Gea (19 years old; Atletico Madrid)

Why: For a while, Racing Santander’s Sergio Canales was the major headline all over Spain. Now, it’s David de Gea’s turn as the young keeper has been filling in admirably for Sergio Asenjo, whenever called upon, with notable occasions being Atletico’s 2-1 win over Barcelona. Holding a distinguished résumé with Spain at youth levels – including being part of the team which won the 2007 Under-17 European Championship – de Gea’s fine form for the Madrid side this season could be his calling to the World Cup. Besides, rumour has it that Vicente del Bosque is impressed with him, having watched de Gea numerous times.

Why Not: Even with all of the hype surrounding the youngster, the fact of the matter remains that de Gea is still largely untested on the big stage. At the time of writing, the young keeper holds just a clutch of appearances with the Rojiblancos, and even if he manages to relegate Asenjo to the bench, that won’t be enough to promote him fully to the national team. After all, he is only 19 years old.

4) Gorka Iraizoz (28 years old; Athletic Bilbao)

Why: The Basque-born number one has been a regular for his team over the past couple of seasons, and is one of the driving forces behind Bilbao’s resurgence. Iraizoz has also picked up a handful of Man of the Match awards, most notably that after the 1-0 win over Real Madrid at the San Mames Stadium, where his fine keeping ensured that the likes of Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo would go home empty-handed.

Why Not: Despite his steady form at Athletic for the past few years, Gorka Iraizoz’s main problem remains his inability to compete with other goalkeepers for a starting berth: He left Athletic Bilbao when he was younger due to a lack of playing time, and returned when he found competition with Espanyol’s Carlos Kameni hard to deal with.

5) Diego Lopez (28 year old; Villarreal CF)

Why: Diego Lopez has been ever-present in the limelight of the Primera ever since he stepped out of Iker Casillas’ shadow and left Real Madrid for current club Villarreal back in 2007. Gradually improving at the Yellow Submarine, he managed to usurp Sebastian Viera’s between the sticks. This in turn saw him awarded a squad number in Spain’s 2009 Confederation Cup party, even though he didn’t see any action. Nonetheless, Lopez has been a brilliant figure in Villarreal’s catastrophic season.

Why Not: Villarreal’s disastrous start to the season is still engraved into recent memory. Their defensive record is one of the worst, and with a top-six finish seeming more like a distant dream, del Bosque might be tempted to look elsewhere for his World Cup backup.

6) Andres Palop (36 years old; Sevilla FC)

Why: Dismissing a widely held notion that he is past his best, Palop has given doubters reason to tune into his performances this season. The Valencia-born goalkeeper has been an absolute revelation, turning back the clock with breath-taking displays for the Andalucians, week in-week out. Having been part of the Euro 2008 squad, Palop would find the trip to South Africa a walk in the park should he continue his club form.

Why Not: Even though Palop is one of Spain’s better keepers, the awful truth remains that he is in the twilight of his career. With the national team coach favouring young blood over rusty legs, his chances of making the cut seem a little frail, considering the competition.

7) Victor Valdes (28 years old; Barcelona)

Why: Certainly the most controversial name under consideration, the fact that Valdes has never been capped for Spain so far remains a puzzling mystery. Perhaps the competition presented by adversary Iker Casillas is too much to handle for the born-and-bred Catalonian. Valdes has though been such a key component of Barcelona’s title march this season that it is hard to overlook his achievements, having saved his team on many occasions, most notably against Real Madrid in November’s Clasico. The Camp Nou favourite is also on track for another Zamora trophy, after having conceded the least goals this season.

Why Not: Goalkeepers live on a thin line: Pull off a save and be praised for the rest of the night; let the ball roll through their legs and be damned for all of eternity. Inconveniently for Victor Valdes, Barcelona’s keeper has never seemed able to shrug his “howler-prone” tag, even though he tends to make the miracle save every now and then. His insecurities could be the main factor behind a World Cup snub, and should he fail to make the squad in June, then it is likely that his national team hopes are as good as over.

Spain certainly have a lot of talent in the goalkeeping department, but ultimately, there’s only one spot left for one of these seven players to take. The pendulum at present seems to be swinging in favour of Lopez, Palop and Valdes, who have been the best keepers the Primera has to offer this season. But who will take that final third place on the plane is still far from certain and there remains much life La Liga yet for the contenders to shine.


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