8 Reasons Spain's International Dominance Is Set to Continue
Double European champions, world champions, a squad of reserves that would walk into most other international teams, a coach who can apparently do no wrong...can anything stop Spain from winning another World Cup in 2014?
The omens do not bode well for Spain's rivals. The under-19 team is also double European champion and has won six of the last 11 tournaments. The under-21 team is also a European champion and in recent matches has thrashed Denmark and Croatia and roundly beaten Italy for a total of 17 for and two against.
La Roja, La Rojita and all the little red ones after that are favorites for every tournament they enter. Brazil 2014 will be no different, although the Canarinha will have something to say about it.
Here are eight reasons Spain is here to stay.
The Coaching System
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Spain doesn't do things by chance, much like La Liga club Barcelona's vaunted set-up. It also doesn't tolerate failure, as Luis Milla discovered when Spain imploded at the 2012 London Olympics.
His replacement is a little like Spain's answer to Pep Guardiola. Or Tito Vilanova at least.
Under-21 coach Julen Lopetegui has been around the junior sides for so long he knows each and every player inside out, so he was the obvious choice to relieve Milla.
The same goes for Gines Melendez, the under-19 team coach, who was invited to join the staff by Inaki Saez in 2003 and has coached the under-20 and under-17 sides as well.
As with Barcelona, there is a structure to Spain's junior teams that is tried and true. Players make the step up to the seniors without any need for a bedding-in period. As with Barcelona, no other nation has achieved quite such a production line of ready talent.
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Obviously, a good coaching system is not much use without good players. And Spain has a lot of those.
People often muse that Guardiola was lucky, that he simply wandered into a once-in-a-lifetime group of players. A look at Barcelona B's squad suggests the ethos at the club runs rather deeper than a one-off fluke.
Explaining Spain's extraordinary wealth of players is less easy. They come from all over—the Canary Islands being a curiously rich mine of talent—and play all over the shop.
Benfica's Rodrigo (above) is tied as all-time leading scorer with Oscar Garcia.
More or less the entire squad are fully blooded first-team regulars. Those that aren't—Nacho, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Deulofeu—are not so, simply because they play at Real or Barcelona.
Looking at England's under-21 players, it's enough to make you weep.
Where Are the Egos?
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Part of the problem with England's setup is that, despite being bossed by Stuart "Psycho" Pearce, the team is riddled with players whose egos are writing checks their talent can't possibly hope to cash.
What they can do is get paid piles of money, moan about their positions and seek transfers to other clubs that might be desperate enough to meet their demands. See Daniel Sturridge's move to Liverpool for details.
Now, try and remember the last time you heard any Spain players at any level openly threatening to wage war on their clubs if they were not given what they want.
It happens only very, very occasionally.
And it is most certainly not a cultural thing, as 10 years in Spain can attest. If complaining were an Olympic sport...
Spain players are trained from a young age to embrace patience and hard work. Both are rare commodities in today's game.
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But it's not just the future that's bright for Spain. The present is pretty handy, too.
Casillas, the man they call Saint Iker in Spain, is a remarkable keeper. He has played more Champions League games than any other no. 1, has more Spain caps than anyone in history, has won over 100 international games in which he has played and seems never to have been injured.
Since taking over between the sticks from Bodo Illgner in 1999 for Real Madrid he has been ever-present (including for Spain) and shows no signs of hanging up his gloves any time soon, although he did admit that he might fancy a quieter life in the MLS at some point.
Good news for Spain, bad news for Victor Valdes, Pepe Reina, David de Gea and a host of other very good Spanish keepers plying their trade in the shadow of The Saint.
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Xavi extended his contract with Barcelona until 2016 this week. He may not make the next Euros, and who would want to, after the meddling madness of Michel Platini increased the tournament's roster to 24 teams?
But he'll most likely be in Brazil, and that is bad news for everybody else.
The heartbeat of the team and the best controller of a game the sport has ever seen, Xavi is instrumental to Spain's success.
Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said recently that there is no cloning program at Barcelona, that it was not possible to turn Sergi Roberto into Xavi overnight.
Happily for Spain, there is no need to.
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Happily for Spain, when Xavi does hang up his Humphrey Bogart hairdo, Sergi Roberto exists to step into his well-worn boots.
The Barcelona B star has made a couple of appearances for the first team and is a regular in the Spain under-21 matches.
Expect to see a lot more of him.
Vicente Del Bosque
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Vicente del Bosque was made a marquis after winning the 2012 FIFA World Cup.
He is quite possibly the most popular man in Spain. There is a department seemingly dedicated just to inventing awards to give him.
Above, the veteran coach is pictured receiving the National Sports Award from Prince Felipe earlier this month.
If there were a general election tomorrow, Del Bosque would win it in a landslide. That is very unlikely, though, as Mariano Rajoy grimly clings to power as the country disintegrates around him.
That means that Del Bosque can concentrate on running the only thing in the country that still works: La Roja.
The first Marquis of Del Bosque is the safest man in football and will certainly lead Spain to Brazil.
It is also worth remembering that he remains Real Madrid's most successful modern manager, despite having to deal with the likes of Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos.
And he never once went postal in a press conference.
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Is there any team in the world as gratingly successful as Spain?
Not at the moment.
Its patented tiki-taka style might not be to everybody's taste but it certainly works. Holland, Germany, Italy, Portugal...all have been passed into submission in major tournament play since Luis Aragones first came up with the idea of sticking the little lads in there.
(And getting rid of Raul, who was hardly the most uniting locker room figure.)
The great incognito comes from the American continent.
Spain last played Argentina in 2010 and got thrashed 4-1. But then, Spain and friendlies have never mixed particularly well. Brazil hasn't been tested against Spain since 1999, which resulted in a dour 0-0 tie.
These three are only teams to have won the World Cup on a continent that isn't their own. All three will be firm favorites for the title in Brazil.
It might be the end of Spain's international hegemony, or it might be the beginning of a new era of dominance.
But of course, you can never rule out Germany...