La Roja won the 2008 European Cup that took place in Austria and Switzerland, claimed the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and renewed their European title in 2012, after smashing Italy in Kiev at the tournament’s final. After such an impressive run, will Spain be able to win their fourth consecutive international title at Brazil next July?
Prior to their first World Cup victory, Spain were, in fact, true underachievers, since they had never won a World Cup and they had even failed to manage to walk through the quarter-finals. Nevertheless, things started to change in 2008 by the hand of Luis Aragonés, who implemented a new game style and brought in a new winning mentality to the team. The Spanish armada have been almost flawless ever since thanks to their “tiki-taka” style, which, combined with a fantastic generation of footballers, managed to impress the world of football by claiming three consecutive international titles.
Spain were placed on Group B, probably the toughest one of the tournament, together with the Netherlands, Chile, and Australia. Although the Socceroos probably don’t stand a chance against La Roja, the Netherlands and Jorge Sampaoli’s Chile might certainly threaten Spain’s dominance.
During the UEFA qualifying round, Spain, led by Vicente del Bosque, fully controlled Group I with six wins and two draws on eight matches. Despite their dominance, Spain didn’t look as strong as they already proven to be in past competitions. The team struggled, for instance, to defeat a frail Belarus side at Mallorca and experienced several difficulties to overcome Georgia at Tbilisi in September 2012. The “tiki-taka” style is still there, although La Roja’s finishing skills have clearly left something to be desired, as they have only scored fourteen goals in the eight matches they played during the qualifying round.
Vicente Del Bosque, who is known for his methodical approach to the game, will certainly not change much of his team’s game style during the World Cup. Spain’s game is based on a possession short passing football, moving the ball around patiently and consistently in order to create some numbness in the opponent before applying their lethal touch. Del Bosque will certainly opt for a versatile 4-3-3 style, which can easily be transformed into a more conservative 4-5-1 approach when playing, for example, against teams such as the Netherlands and Chile, who have powerful midfield lines able to cause some damage on his usual midfield trio with just one defensive midfielder.
Regardless of their somewhat timid performances during the qualifying round, Spain are firm favourites to win the tournament or at least to reach the final. Nevertheless, La Roja cannot simply lay back and expect things go with the flow if they do not want to be surprised by an impressive and brave Chilean side or offer the group lead to a confident Clockwork Orange team, thus risking not going through to the next stage of the competition.
13 June 2014: Spain 1 Netherlands 1 Best Odds 1.90 @ Paddy Power
18 June 2014: Spain 1 Chile 1 Best Odds 1.73 @ Ladbrokes
23 June 2014: Australia 0 Spain 3 Best Odds 1.20 @ William Hill
Goalkeepers: Casillas, Reina, De Gea
Defenders: Sergio Ramos, Piqué, Albiol, Javi Martínez, Juanfran, Jordi Alba, Azpilicueta, Carvajal, Alberto Moreno
Midfielders: Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Koke, Busquets, Cazorla, Iturraspe, Fábregas, Thiago, Mata, Silva, Pedro, Jesús Navas
Forwards: Diego Costa, Villa, Fernando Torres, Negredo, Llorente