Spain travel to Brazil as both the reigning World and European champions, having won the last the last three major international trophies. The ‘Golden generation’ has proven a huge success for the country and this year’s crop of players are just as qualified.
Whilst some may suggest the defending champions are past their best, I’d argue they are getting even better. The team is blessed with incredible depth, and with the addition of Diego Costa, Spain have acquired the ultimate poacher to add to an already successful formation.
After a humiliating defeat to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final – the side’s biggest defeat in a competitive game since winning Euro 2008 – las Rojas will be seeking revenge in Rio on the 13th July.
Those who were expecting Spain’s qualifying campaign to be a formality were in for a surprise. Vicente Del Bosque’s side struggled were forced to wait until their final group game, before guaranteeing their place in this summer’s tournament.
Despite going unbeaten in their eight games, it was far from a comfortable campaign for the world champions. They finished three points ahead of France, topping the group as a result, but they were only able to score 14 goals.
Nonetheless, Spain’s defensive solidity will have proven an area of promise. Las Rojas conceded just three goals throughout the entire qualification phase.
Vincente Del Bosque faces perhaps the hardest task in world football when refining Spain’s plethora of talent to just 30 men. Real Madrid full-back Alvaro Arbeloa is the most notable absentee, while Tottenham’s Roberto Soldado also missed the cut.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, David de Gea.
Defenders: Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Raul Albiol, Juanfran, Jordi Alba, Daniel Carvajal, Alberto Moreno, Cesar Azpilicueta & Javi Martinez.
Midfielders: Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Koke, Sergio Busquets, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, David Silva, Ander Iturraspe, Thiago Alcantara, Jesus Navas & Pedro.
Strikers: Diego Costa, David Villa, Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Torres.
Diego Costa brings a new dynamic to the world champions, if Vicente del Bosque uses the Atletico Madrid striker as expected. Spain have not possessed a player with his qualities since the incredible run of trophies began.
The Brazilian-born forward will have a point to prove, after opting to play for the Spaniards over the summer’s host nation. He will terrorize defences when given the freedom to do so. His physical style will bamboozle even the most experienced of players.
Spain’s midfield talent is a key behind the world champion’s success, and Andres Iniesta is a tremendous talent in this position. The little Spaniard was crowned best player of the tournament in 2012, as his county stormed to European success in Poland and Ukraine.
He has had a subdued season at Barcelona with occasional flashes of brilliance, during a season that has largely disappointed. However, he always seems to turn it on for Spain. He could prove the catalyst behind a fourth successive trophy.
At only 28 years of age, Sergio Ramos has already clocked up over a century of appearances for the Spanish national team and, with Carles Puyol gone, the Real Madrid centre-back is the natural successor to lead the team from defence.
His speed, size and ability to read the game means he rarely gets beaten by an opposition attacker and this will be a real asset against the world’s greatest talent.
Possible Starting XI
The Spanish are clear favourites in group B is. That said, Chile are more than capable of causing an upset, especially playing in South American, whilst Australia can be robust, spirited and frustrating. The group could become very interesting if the Spanish start slowly and fail to beat the Netherlands. Winning this group or finishing second is the difference between Croatia/Mexico/Cameroon in the first knockout round and Brazil.
If they soar through the group stages, I’d expect to see Spain in the final. They remain the team to beat on the international stage and a fourth successive major trophy is certainly achievable.