World Cup Preview – Spain
Best WC Performance: Winners – 2010
Current World Ranking: 10
2010 Champions Spain found themselves unfortunate to not be amongst the top seeds when the draw was made, and found themselves drawn alongside neighbours Portugal, as well as Iran and Morocco.
Making their 15th appearance, the 1964 Champions of Europe are well fancied to go deep into the knockout stages.
After an embarrassing group stage exit four years ago which included a 5-1 drubbing by the Netherlands, La Furia Roja will be out to restore pride.
Until 10 years ago, Spain were considered international football’s biggest underacheivers, with world class players coming and going without a world cup final to show for it.
They dispatched of that tag, winning three consecutive tournaments between 2008 and 2012, but the core of those squads has moved on.
Question marks remain about this team’s bottle in tournament football, but it cannot be denied the squad is littered with world class players.
Goalkeepers: Pepe Reina (Napoli), David de Gea (Manchester United), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao)
Defenders: Nacho Fernandez, Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal (all Real Madrid), Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba (both Barcelona), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Cesar Azpilicueta (both Chelsea)
Midfielders: Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets (both Barcelona), Saul Niguez, Koke (both Atletico Madrid), Isco, Marco Asensio (both Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), David Silva (Manchester City)
Forwards: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Rodrigo (Valencia), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid)
Vs Portugal 19:00, 15.06.18 Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
Vs Iran 19:00, 20.06.18 Kazan Arena, Kazan
Vs Morocco 19:00, 25.06.18 Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
Manager – Fernando Hierro
Spain will be lead at the the World Cup by former defender and captain Fernando Hierro, following the sacking of Julen Loptegui.
After Loptegui was announced as Zinedine Zidane’s successor at Real Madrid (with the negotiations revealed to have occured without the knowledge or approval of the Spanish FA), Spain’s governing body took the decision to relieve him of his duties just two days before Spain’s opening clash with Portugal.
Former sporting director Hierro takes charge for his second managerial role (following a spell at lower Spanish league side Oviedo). As a player, Hierro made a name for himself as a hugely versatile defensive utility man, with an impressive scoring record as well. Over 89 international appearances, he bagged 29 goals, while he also won La Liga five times and the Champions League on three occassions with Real Madrid, before ending his career at English giants Bolton Wanderers.
Drawn against Italy, Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein in UEFA Group G, Spain sealed qualification for Russia by topping the group.
An 8-0 demolition of Liechtenstein was followed by a draw in Italy, and they were to drop no more points as they qualified with a game to spare.
La Furia Roja finished with an impressive record of 36 goals scored, split evenly throughout the team with four players top-scoring on five goals.
At the other end, Spain conceded only three goals – one each to Italy, Israel and Macedonia – to outline their defensive solidity.
Captain – Sergio Ramos
Evergreen Sergio Ramos seems to get better with age, and will captain Spain at a world cup for the first time this summer.
Starting out as a right back at Sevilla, Ramos secured a move to Real Madrid in 2005. In the last few years, he’s been converted into a penalty and free-kick taking, goalscoring centre-back.
With 151 caps to his name, this will be his fourth World Cup and most likely his last.
Not one to shy away from a red card or a late equaliser, expect Ramos to be in the thick of things for Spain once again.
Danger man – Diego Costa
Many expected Alvaro Morata to lead the line for Spain this summer, but after the Chelsea man was overlooked for the squad, the man he replaced now bears that weight.
The Brazilian born 29-year-old bullies defences wherever he goes, and will be relishing Spain’s tournament opener against Portugal in what’s already promising to be a tasty encounter.
With a current tally of seven goals in 18 appearances for Spain, his physical presence up front will also create extra space for the likes of Isco and Marco Asensio to pull the strings in midfield.
Young Player – Marco Asensio
At just 22, Marco Asensio’s trophy cabinet is already pretty cramped. Having won eight titles with Real Madrid in the last two seasons, Asensio’s value continues to rise.
A tricky attacking midfielder, the former Mallorca ace scored in last season’s Champions League final, but is yet to open his account for Spain in 10 appearances.
This will be his first World Cup, where he will likely compete with Isco for a role in behind the striker. Keep an eye out for mazy runs from halfway, and do not count against him bagging his first International goal.
Premier League Players
After La Liga, the Premier League is the second most common league in the most recent Spanish squads. David De Gea, Cesar Azpilicueta, Nacho Monreal and David Silva, all plied their trade in England this season, while Diego Costa left Chelsea in January to rejoin Atletico Madrid. Several current stars can count themselves unlucky to miss out with Marcos Alonso, Alvaro Morata and Cesc Fabregas amongst the best of those overlooked.
As usual, the squad is populated heavily by Real Madrid and Barcelona players, but less so than previous years. Outside of Spain, Napoli’s Pepe Reina will play understudy to De Gea.
It’s first or second in Group B for Spain. It is very difficult to see Iran or Morocco causing an upset, leaving Portugal the only side capable of topping them.
Spain are unbeaten since being knocked out of Euro 2016 by Italy in the last 16, and not by luck. The closest they came to defeat since then was against England in November 2016, when two injury time goals rescued a 2-2 draw.
That goal typifies the resilience this team has in buckets. But you cannot always rely on resilience to succeed in football.
Fortunately for Spain, they have an attacking set up capable of scoring six goals against Argentina. Goals throughout the team, and the most goal-hungry centre-back in world football mean they are a big danger, and rightly considered among the favourites to go all the way.
Written by Sam Hanys.