Spain World Cup 2014 Team Profile

Spain - World Cup 2014 Team Profile

Spain.

Sean O'Conor reports

Road to Brazil

Spain finished top of UEFA Group I, three points ahead of France. The disappointment of drawing at home to Finland and the French was cancelled out by winning every match away from home, most crucially in Paris.

Fixtures

Spain team jersey kit 1 (c) Soccerphile. Spain team jersey kit 2 (c) Soccerphile.

Spain Kit 1
Copyright © Soccerphile

Spain Kit 2
Copyright © Soccerphile

Spain v Netherlands 13 June; Salvador
Spain v Chile 18 June; Rio de Janeiro
Spain v Australia 23 June; Curitiba

Analysis

Spain bring a veteran rather than youthful squad to Brazil, with the spine of the World Cup-winning team intact and only seven changes from 2010, two of them enforced injuries to Victor Valdes and Jesus Navas.

When it comes to goals, once more La Roja take an unconventional approach. Instead of packing four or five strikers, Vicente del Bosque has brought a host of attacking midfielders.

Fernando Torres is still the fulcrum of the forward line despite ever-declining club form at Chelsea, while the selection of Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa may yet misfire as the Brazilian-born goleador missed the Champions League final through injury and did not impress on his Spanish debut. He may yet depart the squad before the tournament begins.

Fernando Llorente, on the back of an impressive season with Juventus would have offered an aerial alternative but was overlooked, as were two strikers who scored in the qualifiers - Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado, plus Swansea's Michu and Barcelona's Gerard Deulofeu, who had a great season on loan at Everton.

But Spain anyway never play with more than one striker as their midfield is overflowing with riches. Thiago's injury was a big loss however and there are doubts whether the wizard Xavi can summon up the energy at 34 for another cup-winning performance.

But any side which can call on Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Pedro, David Silva and Xavi to assist the core of Andre Iniesta and Xabi Alonso remains blessed.

Atletico Madrid's capture of La Liga and ride to the Champions League final means places in the squad for Juanfran and Koke, although Del Bosque will keep faith with the Barça-Real nucleus. The defensive midfield partnership between the blaugrana Sergio Busquets and Merengue Alonso will be vital.

Carlos Puyol has made way at left-back to Jordi Alba and although the back four does not look impregnable, in Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos Spain still have two formidable defenders. In the qualifiers, it should not be forgotten, the defence was the meanest in Europe, conceding only three times.

Between the sticks they are not the strongest however, as doubts linger over Iker Casillas who has not played a full season for Real Madrid.

Midfield is where Spain hope their creative firepower will overwhelm the opposition, who will have pored over Brazil's Confederations Cup win to learn the chinks in their armour. A fast and muscular counter-attacking game puts the Spanish, like Barcelona, on the back foot and in less certain territory. Hoping to out-pass them is nigh on impossible.

The world is well-versed on the Spanish possession game and there is no real plan B because plan A has been good enough to bag consecutive European Championships and the World Cup. The only major switch would be to drop Torres and use Cesc Fabregas or Koke as a false No.9 in the space behind him.

Given the age of much of the squad and the changing tactics of world soccer, this could be the last hurrah for tiki-taka. If so, let us hope one of the finest teams in the history of football goes out with a bang and not a whimper.

Key player: Sergio Ramos

The Real Madrid lynchpin has emerged as the national team's totem following the retirement of Carlos Puyol and his influence at the back will be key to Spain retaining their title. Ramos is strong, quick and determined not to be beaten to the ball.

His marshalling of the defence is matched by his prowess in attack, where he has netted vital goals for Real Madrid, and twice in qualifying for Spain. He is a particular threat in the air at set-pieces.

On the back of his man-of-the-match performance in Real's Champions League Final win in Lisbon, the Andalucian will be eager to perform his matador and cape routine once more after another trophy win. Aged 28, he is at the height of his powers.

One to watch: Pedro Rodriguez

This entertaining attacker from the Canary Islands is rarely mentioned in the same company as his club Barcelona's magic triangle of Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi, but increasingly stellar performances make him harder to ignore. He scored the vital winner in the qualifiers away to France and was the star performer in the recent friendly win over Italy, running the Azzurri ragged.

The 26 year-old has superb technique and loves to run at defenders, somewhat helped by playing on his 'wrong' left side as a right-footer. His return of 14 goals in 38 matches for Spain gives him a higher goals per game ratio than Torres.

Coach: Vicente del Bosque

Vicente del Bosque has the best record of any coach at the finals, with a World Cup, European Championship and two Champions Leagues under his belt.

He will be relying on familiar faces and tried and tested formulae to bring him another trophy and his kind grandpa demeanour should calm any nerves.

The 63 year-old's stature as a successful leader breeds confidence and his refusal to talk up his team's chances or fall back onto clichés is refreshing and universally respected. Del Bosque is very popular with his players and his country at large, a unifier of Spain's diverse regional rivalries.

FIFA World Ranking 1st (June 2014)

Record

2010 Winners; 1934, 1986, 1994, 2002 Quarter-Final; 1982, 1990, 2006 Second Round; 1962, 1966, 1978, 1998 First Round

World Cup Betting

Soccerphile Says

Spain arrive as holders and the No.1 world ranked team but are conscious of France's 2002 nightmare when Les Bleus arrived as holders and went home before the postcards. There is also the omen of the 2013 Confederations Cup Final, when Brazil, roared on by the Maracanã, blew them away 3-0.

Due to FIFA's flawed seeding, Spain open Group B against the Netherlands before facing Chile, two massive games. Next they could meet Brazil as early as the second round. While Spain have all the talent to reach the final, it is hard to see them beating the seleçao unless the hosts suffer a nervous breakdown.

La Roja have been at the peak of world soccer for six years now and with several of their frontline troops the wrong side of 30, this could be the last stand of the Spanish Empire.

But all those who said Euro 2012 was a tournament too far for Spain ate their words when Del Bosque's men blitzed Italy 4-0 in the final. Do not underestimate a football giant which is not ready to hang up its boots.

2014 World Cup Squad

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), David de Gea (Man Utd), Pepe Reina (Napoli)

Defenders: Raul Albiol (Napoli), Gerard Piqué (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), César Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Koke (Atletico Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Man Utd), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), David Silva (Man City)

Strikers: David Villa (New York City), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)