FIFA Confederations Cup 2013: Why Spain Is the Clear Favorite
If you're getting sick of Spain winning things, don't watch the 2013 Confederations Cup.
The Spanish are coming in as the prohibitive favorite, and it's easy to see why. They're the reigning world and European champions. Until someone knocks them off, you have to assume they'll win every tournament they're in.
With some squads, sometimes you get stagnation and predictability setting in.
That's happened to Barcelona to a certain extent, as the club failed to adjust its personnel or tactics. Barca were dumped out 7-0 on aggregate to Bayern Munich in this year's Champion League.
It also happened to Italy at the 2010 World Cup when Marcello Lippi relied on many of the same players he had in 2006, when Italy won. Unfortunately, those players were four years older and far past their primes.
That isn't the case with Spain. Xavi and Andres Iniesta have been key contributors for about five years now, but they've shown no signs of slowing down. The talent pool is so deep as well, that if they or other players start to falter, reinforcements can be called in.
In the midfield, Vincente del Bosque can call upon the likes of Javi Martinez, David Silva and Sergio Busquets. Out wide he's got playmakers Juan Mata, Jesus Navas and Santi Cazorla. Any of those players could fill in at centre-forward if the manager is not convinced by David Villa, Fernando Torres or Roberto Soldado.
Del Bosque is not one for sentimentality. He's not afraid to play Busquets and Xabi Alonso in midfield, sacrificing beauty and fluidity, or line up Cesc Fabregas at striker in the face of constant questioning.
Those are the kinds of changes necessary to ensure your team remains competitive over multiple cycles. Del Bosque has tinkered with Spain just enough to give different looks, yet not too much that he throws off the team cohesion.
Spanish football writer Andy West is already speculating what kind of changes the manager will make for this tournament:
Lots of people are expecting Del Bosque to abandon the 'double-pivot' in Alonso's absence and go with Pedro/Mata/Cazorla. Would surprise me.— Andy West (@andywest01) June 16, 2013
Of course, Spain are not without their issues. This is yet another summer where the key players will be competing in a major tournament. The national federation has often made it a habit of scheduling lucrative summer friendlies.
That's good for padding the financial coffers, but it doesn't allow the players to get a proper break. When Barcelona was getting knocked out of the UCL semifinal, guys like Xavi, Iniesta and Gerard Pique looked spent. They couldn't offer any major challenge to the Bavarians.
That fatigue was symbolic of the sheer amount of football the Spanish national team has played over the last three or four years.
Spain are not indestructible. At this point, though, they haven't fallen off enough to make you think they're not still the best team in the world.
Which country is the favorite to win the Confederations Cup?
If you're not sold on Spain, whom would be the team to knock them off? There are only eight teams in this tournament, four of which have any chance of knocking off the Spanish juggernaut. But they're not without their problems, either.
Brazil may have beaten Japan, 3-0, but that doesn't cover up what has been a lackluster runs under Mano Menezes and Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Mexico are suffering a major power outage at the moment, and Jose Manuel de la Torre is seriously under fire as manager. If El Tri have a poor showing, it's very likely "Chepo" could be out of a job.
Uruguay have been far from convincing in World Cup qualifying as well. They've got a wealth of attacking talent, but it's not gelling at the moment.
When it comes to Italy, it may have been a year ago, but it's hard not to forget the 4-0 drubbing the Italians suffered at the hands of Spain in the Euro 2012 final.
Spain are a cut above the competition at the Confederations Cup. They should get tested in a big way, but it's hard to look past the world champions.
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