Going into Euro 2012, I was skeptical that Spain would win it all for several reasons. They were going into the tournament missing David Villa and didn’t have a great striker in form. In addition to that, they were missing captain, Carlos Puyol, who had been an anchor at the back in 2008 and 2010. But the biggest reason why I didn’t think Spain would win the championship was because of fatigue.
Their players had won so much for club and country recently that I believed it was going to finally take its toll. However, Spain answered all of the doubts and silenced the critics as they showed yet again that they are a cut above the rest. They have become the first team to win three straight majors, and who would bet against them winning a fourth?
Spain’s midfield is arguably the greatest of all time. The depth that they have there is unreal and all of them should be back for 2014. For the last three majors they have been able to dominate the possession as if the ball was on a string. There is no reason to think that this won’t continue for the next World Cup.
Being able to dominate possession makes Spain extremely tough to beat, as the opposition simply struggles to get touches on the ball. Playing only one or even no strikers up front also allows Spain to flood the midfield, making it even harder to break them down. This was a key factor in their five straight shutouts in the Euros.
Carlos Puyol will probably not be back for the World Cup, but Spain was easily able to cope without him during their championship run. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique played sensational throughout the tournament and will be there in 2014. They will also have Iker Casillas, who was rarely tested in the Euros, but played well as always. Spain will be very hard to break down due to these factors.
The biggest question for Spain will probably be who will be playing up front. Although they were able to play well at times without a striker, I still believe that they will need at least one that they can rely on in 2014. Fernando Torres has been inconsistent, but ended up winning the golden boot. How he will be in 2014 is anyone’s guess. Villa will also be a question mark as no one knows how he will play after returning from a broken leg. Alvaro Negredo was rarely used in the tournament and Fernando Llorente didn't play at all, but both are viable options for the tournament. Who Spain plays up front shouldn’t be much of a problem.
There will be several teams who will go into 2014 believing that they can win the competition. Brazil will have immense pressure on them to do well, as they have gone out early in the previous two World Cups. Germany will also have a lot of belief that they can win it all. However, in 2008 and 2010 they were outplayed by the Spanish, who frustrated the life out of them with their possession game. The Germans aren’t the only ones to have this happen to them.
No team has shown yet that they can adapt to Spain’s style of play and take the game to them. As a result of these factors, Spain must be the clear favorites to lift their fourth straight major.