Spain FIFA 2014 World Cup Team Guide
Perhaps no team has quite so much riding on the impending World Cup finals than the defending champions, Spain.
Following three consecutive major triumphs that began with the capture of the 2008 European Championship, La Roja could ascend to the pinnacle of football’s pantheon and be recognised as the greatest generation in the game’s history with World Cup glory in Brazil.
While much of this team’s legacy is already assured, a fourth major title in six years would see Vicente del Bosque’s side transcend the reputations of even the finest Brazilian outfits, including the famed Canarinho team of 1970.
The task facing Spain is, of course, immensely challenging. No European team has ever won a World Cup staged in Latin America. Additionally, a nation hasn’t defended its crown since Brazil did so in 1962.
So, ahead of Spain’s possibly monumental campaign in Brazil, we’ve provided you with a comprehensive guide to Del Bosque’s team across the following slides.
Road to the Finals
Spain qualified for the World Cup finals through UEFA Group I, which included France, Finland, Georgia and Belarus.
Vicente del Bosque’s world champions went through the qualifying stage undefeated, racking up six victories and two draws to comfortably sit atop the group’s standings with 20 points, ahead of France on 17.
Match 1: Georgia 0 - 1 Spain
Match 2: Belarus 0 - 4 Spain
Match 3: Spain 1 - 1 France
Match 4: Spain 1 - 1 Finland
Match 5: France 0 - 1 Spain
Match 6: Finland 0 - 2 Spain
Match 7: Spain 2 - 1 Belarus
Match 8: Spain 2 - 0 Georgia
While La Roja only conceded three goals during qualifying, the journey to the World Cup finals was hardly the team’s most prolific. From eight matches, the Spaniards scored just 14 times, with six of those coming against the weakest team in the group in Belarus.
Individually, Pedro led the goal tally by scoring on four occasions, while Alvaro Negredo found the net three times.
Results and statistics per WhoScored.
Vicente del Bosque named his provisional 30-man squad on May 13, as reported by the Spain national team's official website, Sefutbol.com. The squad will be trimmed to its final 23 players on Sunday, May 25.
Del Bosque's squad as it was originally named is presented below:
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina, David De Gea
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Alberto Moreno, Javi Martinez, Raul Albiol, Juanfran, Daniel Carvajal
Forwards: Diego Costa, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente, Pedro, Jesus Navas
Note: Thiago Alcantara has since been ruled out of the World Cup due to a knee injury, as reported by the BBC.
Manager Profile: Vicente Del Bosque
Management at the international level is often viewed as inferior to the work done domestically. Due to a daily detachment from one’s players and an inability to consistently foster the development of the squad, international managers rarely command the same acclaim as the pre-eminent leaders at club level.
Yet, in Vicente del Bosque, Spain owns perhaps the most decorated manager on the planet.
After guiding Real Madrid through the club’s most prosperous spell of the modern era between 1999 and 2003, the 63-year-old’s stunning success with Spain has left him as the only manager in history to have all three of the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League crowns on his CV, per ESPN FC.
In fact, Del Bosque’s combined record as both a player and manager is staggering. His complete trophy haul includes seven league titles, five domestic cups, two Champions League crowns, the UEFA Super Cup, the Intercontinental Cup, plus the recent World Cup and European Championship triumphs, according to UEFA.com.
As a manager, much of Del Bosque’s success can be attributed to a seemingly unshakable bond with his players. Quiet and calm, the Spaniard’s approach has always been based on selflessness, team unity and unrivalled composure.
It was that very method that made the manager an unquestioned success at Real Madrid, before he was sacked by Florentino Perez at a time when Los Blancos were looking for a bold “new era” at the Bernabeu, per ESPN FC.
Despite an unsuccessful stint at Besiktas, Del Bosque has instilled his team-first approach into the Spain national team since 2008 to help propel the side to the pinnacle of world football.
By trusting the qualities and ethos of the team’s Barcelona core, the 63-year-old has overseen the development of one of the most cohesive and inspiring international outfits in the game’s history.
Star Man: Andres Iniesta
While Xavi is the most decorated player in the Spanish squad, it’s Andres Iniesta who has risen to become his nation’s leading player in recent years.
Since scoring the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, the Barcelona ace has made a habit of shining on the grandest of stages, made evident by his capture of the Player of the Tournament at EURO 2012, per UEFA.com.
In glorious cohesion with his midfield counterparts in Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, the 30-year-old is capable of weaving and passing his way through even the world’s most robust defences. Furthermore, with his great Barcelona teammate now entering the twilight of his glittering career, Iniesta stands as the world's pre-eminent Spanish player, possessing the most delightful and quintessential combination of technical ability and passing vision.
Adding to Iniesta’s supreme reputation is the goal and chance-creation threat posed by the midfielder. Those traits are particularly evident when Iniesta is deployed by Vicente del Bosque in his preferred attacking position on the left-hand side.
It must be acknowledged, however, that the midfielder’s domestic campaign in 2013-14 was far from his finest, reflected by Barcelona’s failure to lift a single piece of silverware under Tata Martino this season.
But that might just give Iniesta something to prove in Brazil this summer, which based on his stunning CV, is a dangerous proposition for Spain’s rivals at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
One to Watch: Diego Costa
Diego Costa will head to Brazil this summer as public enemy No. 1, following his decision to play for his adopted nation over the country of his birth.
Perhaps what will be most interesting to observe is the way in which Costa deals with the adversity surrounding his situation, given his often fiery and irritable presence on the pitch.
While the 25-year-old’s talent is unquestioned, the Brazilian-born striker is entering a pressure-packed period in his career, which would have the capacity to unsettle some far cooler customers than himself. An impending big-money move to Chelsea, as reported by Sky Sports, can only add further pressure to Costa’s situation.
And it’s that sub-plot that will make the striker’s performances for La Roja all the more fascinating.
Should Vicente del Bosque opt to utilise the Atletico Madrid star as his No. 9 in favour of the declining duo of David Villa and Fernando Torres, he’ll be immediately charged with the responsibility of adding firepower to a Spanish attack that somewhat laboured through the qualifying stage.
How Costa deals with that burden without major international experience will be fascinating to watch, particularly given the volatility set to surround his every move in Brazil this summer.
World Cup Record
Spain have reached the World Cup finals on 13 previous occasions since making the nation’s inaugural appearance in Italy in 1934.
The nation has lifted the World Cup trophy once, when Vicente del Bosque’s team famously triumphed in the most recent edition of the tournament in 2010.
Aside from 2010, La Roja has made it as far as the semi-finals on just one other occasion, when the nation finished fourth in Brazil in 1950. In what had been a recurring theme prior to the 2010 triumph, Spain had been knocked out in the quarter-finals stage four times.
Winning Percentage: 50 percent
Goals For: 88
Goals Against: 59
Most Matches Played: Andoni Zubizarreta (16), Iker Casillas (15), Carles Puyol (14), Xavi (14), Fernando Hierro (12)
Most Goals Scored: David Villa (8), Fernando Morientes (5), Raul (5), Emilio Butragueno (5), Fernando Hierro (5)
All statistics courtesy of FIFA.com.
Match 1: Spain vs. Netherlands
Venue: Arena Fonte Nova
Date: Friday, June 13 2014
Time: 8 p.m. BST
Live on: BBC
Match 2: Spain vs. Chile
Venue: Estadio do Maracana
Date: Wednesday, June 18 2014
Time: 8 p.m. BST
Live on: BBC
Match 3: Australia vs. Spain
Venue: Arena da Baixada
Date: Monday, June 23 2014
Time: 5 p.m. BST
Live on: ITV
Fixtures per FIFA.com.