International Football

Projecting Spain's Best and Worst Case Scenarios for World Cup 2014 Draw

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  Andres Iniesta of Spain holds the World Cup trophy aloft after the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2013

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
PotNationWorld Ranking
1Spain1
2Chile15
3United States14
4Netherlands9
FIFA

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.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - SEPTEMBER 10:  Mauricio Isla of Chile and Koke Resurreccion of Spain compete for the ball during the Spain v Chile international friendly at Stade de Geneve on September 10, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/G
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images

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
PotNationWorld Ranking
1Spain1
2Algeria26
3Iran45
4Greece12
FIFA

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.

RUSTENBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 22:  Algeria fans during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations match between Tunisia and Algeria at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Rustenburg, South Africa.  (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Gett
Gallo Images/Getty Images

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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