Spain head into the 2014 World Cup as champions, safe in the knowledge they won't have to face a top seed until at least the Round of 16.
Even so, Vicente Del Bosque's experienced team—who have shown signs of decline recently—could be faced with a tough task in Brazil's group stage.
With the draw looming on Dec. 6, let's take a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios for the side that captured their first ever world title during the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
Before we begin, here's the Pot draw from Paul Carr of ESPN (click to enlarge):
Worst Scenario for the World Champions
|Spain's Worst Scenario|
Spain are no longer a nervy side heading into major tournaments, but they could be given a reason to sweat if Chile or Nigeria are drawn alongside them from Pot 2.
Jorge Sampaoli's team have repeatedly shown they can compete with the best across the past year. The South American side recently played within themselves during a 2-0 away win over England and narrowly lost out to Brazil just a few days later.
The 3-3 draw against Colombia—which saw La Roja take a commanding 3-0 lead—highlighted both their attacking prowess and ability to capitulate at the back. Still, Chile managed a 2-2 draw with Spain in September, per FIFA, confirming they are more than capable of battling against top sides.
Nigeria's recent African Cup of Nations win, brought on by talented players such as Victor Moses, provides warning that they too could trouble Spain in the sweltering heat. Ivory Coast are another team Del Bosque would like to avoid, as the power of Sabri Lamouchi's side is always likely to cause problems across the pitch.
Pot 3's most difficult opponents come in the shape of USA, who Spain will be more than confident of turning over. While Mexico are usually outlined as North America's most likely team to cause an upset, an indifferent year has seen El Tri lose their edge.
The final pot, made up of quality European teams, is likely to make the holders most nervous. A group stage tie with the Netherlands—who Spain narrowly overcame in the last final—would serve up a tremendous contest so early in the tournament.
Del Bosque will also be hoping to avoid Italy, who always seem to take their play up a notch in major tournaments. Portugal, armed with Cristiano Ronaldo and a tournament that speaks their language, will also be worth missing.
Best Scenario for Spain
|Spain's Best Scenario|
On the flipside, Del Bosque's squad may receive a less competitive route to the knockout stages. There are certainly teams that will be underlined in each pot as the easiest, starting with Algeria in the second selection.
The North African team barely scraped beyond Burkina Faso to make the tournament, overcoming the battling side on away goals with the score at 3-3. They accumulated just one point in 2010, the memorably terrible 0-0 draw with England, and will struggle to make an impact in Brazil.
Iran's current squad is inexperienced on the world stage and could also stagnate under the increased intensity of World Cup football. Alongside Australia and Honduras, they represent the easiest ties from Pot 3.
Drawing one of the less challenging teams in Pot 4 could make all the difference to Spain's finishing position. Del Bosque will earmark Greece and Croatia as the easiest opponents, even though both have the quality to run Spain close on their day.
Ties against Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina will be favoured after this, although it's fair to suggest the latter currently offer a sterner challenge than facing England or France.
Both the best- and worst-case scenarios highlight how the teams outside of Pot 1 have the most to get worried about, as if Spain are drawn into their Group of Death, simple passage to the next round will still be expected.
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