On the shortlist of teams capable of winning this year's World Cup, Spain stands tall atop all other contenders.
The two-time defending European champions and defending World Cup champs are deep, talented and employ a tiki-taka system that has guided them to success in the past. They'll leave players off the final roster that would start for more than a few countries.
Still, there are chinks in the armor. The core is aging, the team was physically manhandled by Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, losing 3-0, and there are just enough questions at several positions to make Spain appear more vulnerable than they've been in recent years.
Below, we'll review the team's group, fixtures and roster now that the World Cup draw is complete as they attempt to defend their title.
|Spain Group Fixtures|
|June 13||3 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. BST||Netherlands|
|June 18||6 p.m. ET, 11 p.m. BST||Chile|
|June 23||Noon ET, 5 p.m. BST||Australia|
GK: Victor Valdes
RB: Daniel Carvajal
CB: Sergio Ramos
CB: Gerard Pique
LB: Jordi Alba
DM: Sergio Busquets
CM: Andres Iniesta
RM: Cesc Fabregas
F: Alvaro Negredo
GK: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina
DF: Nacho Monreal, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa
MF: Jesus Navas, David Silva, Juan Mata, Isco, Xabi Alonso
F: Diego Costa, David Villa
GK: David de Gea
DF: Carles Puyol, Juanfran, Marc Bartra, Cesar Azpilicueta
MF: Thiago Alcantara, Koke, Mario Suarez, Javi Martinez, Javi Garcia, Santi Cazorla, Asier Illarramendi
Here's what we know: Players like Iniesta, Fabregas, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, Pedro, Ramos, Pique and Alba will be on this team, no questions asked, and will all likely start.
After that, however, it gets trickier.
Will it be Valdes or Casillas in goal? With several promising but few must-start options at forward, which man will Spain employ to lead the line? Will new addition Costa, who has been on fire for Atletico Madrid, continue his torrid scoring pace for the Spaniards?
And with a glut of promising midfield options, will players like Navas, Silva, Mata or Isco—all of whom would start for most countries—see much action?
Most of Spain's questions are the envy of the rest of the world, of course. Spain's midfield alone is worth drooling over, and if none of the forwards pan out, the team is talented enough to play Fabregas as a false nine.
These are cosmetic issues, not functional ones.