Spain's international side have swept all before them over the past six years, winning two UEFA European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the process.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil will arguably be their hardest test to date, taking place in South America, with a few of their biggest stars from previous tournaments either into or approaching their 30s and with most of the rest of the world seeing them as the team to beat.
Spain's method of passing teams to death and controlling matches until opportunities to strike at goal present themselves is one which has won them many plaudits—and trophies—along the way, but it also necessitates great patience, mobility and technique on the part of the main forward.
For Brazil 2014, that man could well be Diego Costa, the Brazilian-born Atletico Madrid striker who has only just made his debut for his adopted nation.
In doing so, he could in all probability end the inclusion of club team-mate David Villa in the very same squad.
FT: Spain 1 - Italy 0. Diego Costa plays the full 90 mins on his debut. No Negredo or Koke... Very confident display from Del Bosque's side— AS English (@English_AS) March 5, 2014
Wide Forwards and Attacking Movement
In Vicente del Bosque's basic shape, two wide forwards and the most offensive central midfielder both have an enormous responsibility to not only help recycle and reuse possession, but also offer constant movement in and out of the defensive line to help create space.
Pedro, David Silva, Santi Cazorla and Jesus Navas are the prime candidates, though Andres Iniesta regularly features in that line from the left side.
Juan Mata also has an outside chance of making the squad if he impresses significantly over the next three months.
Most often, there will also be a central striker ahead and between those wide players, though certain fixtures have seen Spain start with Cesc Fabregas in that role. The Barcelona man will hope to play in the central attacking midfield position, beside and ahead of Xavi and Xabi Alonso, respectively.
However, with Sergio Busquets also to fit in the side, it might be a case of "up front or on the bench" for Cesc.
Candidates to Consider
In terms of the strikers, Spain's squad is perhaps not as deep as it has been previously.
The three main forwards remaining from previous tournaments then are Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and record scorer Villa, now at Atletico.
With that said, Villa did not play a full 90 minutes in World Cup qualifying and started only three of the group games. He is a squad player and no longer a certainty to make the final 23.
Costa, of course, becomes the new name in the frame.
Diego Costa said after the game (ESP 1-0 ITA) that he is happy with the debut and win, but knows he can play far better than he did.— Paulo Freitas (@Cynegeticus) March 5, 2014
Diego and Cesc...Plus 1 or 2?
Should Del Bosque opt to try the pairing of Cesc and Costa again, as he did against Italy, it then becomes a question of whether he takes just one extra striker—using Cesc as the third option when required—or two.
Negredo and Llorente will feel they have done enough this season to make the squad, and in the normal course of things, both of them and Villa—who can play from the left of the attack too—would probably make the squad. Costa's eligibility changes that dynamic, however.
Who should be Spain's starting striker?
World Cup 2010 saw Del Bosque take Villa, Torres and Llorente. Negredo replaced the injured Villa for Euro 2012. Cesc was present in both squads, so form perhaps indicates that there is room for two additional forwards alongside Costa.
Llorente, Negredo and Villa all offer great traits of their own and have been in goalscoring form this season.
Injury and form over the last two months or so will of course dictate much, but it seems possible, if not quite yet probable, that La Liga's only striker offering to the Spanish national team squad will be turn out to be Costa.