Spain are on a roll in international football. They won the World Cup for the first time four years ago and surrounded it with European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012. They will look to continue that impressive streak of results at the 2014 World Cup.
On Tuesday they named their 30-man provisional squad, announced by the nation's official governing body, which included under-pressure stars Fernando Torres and Juan Mata among a glittering array of talented footballers.
The most notable omission, arguably, was the name of Isco, who has proven himself worthy of the famous Real Madrid shirt en route to the Champions League final.
La Roja face a tricky Group B to begin their journey. They are joined by Netherlands and Chile to form a tough trio with Australia also lurking to play the role of spoiler. Spain should still advance, but it probably won't happen without some tense moments along the way.
Let's check out the complete squad and make a projection for the team's starting lineup:
|GK||Iker Casillas||Real Madrid|
|GK||David De Gea||Manchester United|
|DF||Sergio Ramos||Real Madrid|
|DF||Javi Martinez||Bayern Munich|
|DF||Daniel Carvajal||Real Madrid|
|MF||Xabi Alonso||Real Madrid|
|MF||Ander Iturraspe||Athletic Bilbao|
|MF||Thiago Alcantara||Bayern Munich|
|MF||Jesus Navas||Manchester City|
|MF||David Silva||Manchester City|
|MF||Juan Mata||Manchester United|
|ATT||Diego Costa||Atletico Madrid|
|ATT||David Villa||Atletico Madrid|
|ATT||Alvaro Negredo||Manchester City|
Iker Casillas has served as one of the team's leaders during their run of international success. He will get a chance to continue in that role. His starting spot was in question until Victor Valdes suffered a serious knee injury leading up to the World Cup.
After the draw was completed, Harry Slavin of Goal.com passed along comments from Casillas, who admitted repeating as World Cup champions would be challenging:
We know that it'll be very difficult because everyone wants to be champions, not just Spain. After the last four years we know that every team will give 100 percent against us and will want to beat us. But we go there with the aim of defending the title which we won in South Africa and try to make the people of Spain proud again.
Assuming the Spanish defence arrives in Brazil without any major injuries, three of the four starting spots should be locked in.
How far will Spain go in the World Cup?
Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos will continue their partnership in the middle. The veterans have developed terrific chemistry over the years and there's no reason to change things now. Stability among central defenders is key.
The other starter who should be locked in barring injury is Jordi Alba. The Barcelona left-back loves to move forward and is an outstanding distributor. He should provide the extra attacking spark Spain will be looking for in big matches.
That just leaves right-back up in the air. Although La Roja have multiple options to fill the spot, Cesar Azpilicueta is the best bet to get the nod.
If Spain are going to advance from their group and deep into the tournament, the midfield will be the driving force behind the effort just like in 2010.
Although the reigning champions are favoured reach the knockout stages, it's not a lock. Paul Carr of ESPN noted the top three of Spain, Netherlands and Chile is the toughest:
If you look at top 3 teams, Group B is by far the toughest, with 3 of SPI's top 9 (Spain, Chile, Netherlands).— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) December 6, 2013
Head coach Vicente del Bosque obviously has no shortage of options in the middle of the pitch. Spain have an extremely deep group with a nice combination of promising rising stars and reliable veterans.
Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez should link up again in the central roles. Much like the combination of Pique and Ramos, Iniesta and Xavi are two players who work extremely well together and bring creativity to the midfield. All of the other pieces will fill in around them.
There will be another decision for Del Bosque atop the formation. It's another position where there are multiple options that all present their own pros and cons.
Diego Costa seems like the top choice to fill the forward role. His goals during the club campaign with Atletico Madrid, especially during Champions League competition, warrants a chance to start the tournament. If things don't work perfectly in the opener, a change can always be made.
All told, Spain definitely feature enough overall talent to make another title run. The key for Del Bosque is fitting all of the pieces together correctly to maximize the team's potential because the road to a repeat will put them to the test.
Given the fact there are at least three other squads with serious hopes of capturing the title (Brazil, Argentina and Germany), Spain would need everything to go perfectly to win their second straight World Cup. It's possible, but it would take a spectacular effort.