While there are a bunch of teams that are considered contenders to win the 2014 World Cup, no team has the combination of talent, experience and past success of Spain.
The defending World Cup winners and holders of the past two European championships will go into Brazil with as much confidence as anyone in the tournament. The group will feature many of the same players from these past title runs, all of them knowing what it takes to be successful at this level.
Of course, the tough thing for Spain was figuring out a way to settle on just 23 players to take the trip when there are dozens of quality players capable of helping the team win. Still, it is difficult to argue with the final roster.
Here is a breakdown of the full 23-man squad, followed by projections for the starting lineup and predictions for how the squad will fare in the group stage.
|GK||Iker Casillas||Real Madrid|
|GK||David De Gea||Manchester United|
|DF||Sergio Ramos||Real Madrid|
|DF||Javi Martinez||Bayern Munich|
|MF||Xabi Alonso||Real Madrid|
|MF||David Silva||Manchester City|
|MF||Juan Mata||Manchester United|
|ATT||Diego Costa||Atletico Madrid|
|ATT||David Villa||Atletico Madrid|
With the amount of talent on the roster, there is likely to be plenty of changes to the starting lineup. The squad might switch between a 4-3-3 lineup and a 4-2-3-1 with more than 10 players capable of playing somewhere on the attack.
Although there was some debate in past years, Iker Casillas should remain the top goalkeeper for Spain. He has competed in top competitions throughout his career with the national team and Real Madrid, and his experience will be invaluable as an anchor for the squad.
David De Gea has been impressive in his young career, but the 23-year-old keeper represents the future more than the present for the squad.
The defense is also solid with Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos patrolling the middle as they have for years.
Jordi Alba should remain on the outside, but the right-back position is a bit of a question. Cesar Azpilicueta and Raul Albiol have performed well in the area, but Juanfran is coming off a fantastic year with Atletico Madrid and deserves the spot.
However, the midfield is where the true arguments will begin. Depending on the formation and the opponent, there will be some combination of Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro, Juan Mata and others.
This is probably the only team in the tournament that can use a completely different midfield and not have much drop off. As a result, fans should expect to see multiple lineups in order to keep the aging squad as fresh as possible.
At the very front, Spain have a number of questions surrounding the health of Diego Costa. The striker suffered a hamstring tear at the end of the season and put his future in doubt, via Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph:
Diego Costa is facing a high price for playing on with a hamstring injury for Atletico. A tear is 15 days minimum. World Cup in doubt.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) May 27, 2014
The good news is that he was added to the final roster, which shows that he is at least healthy enough to contribute. He will get the first chance from the striker position, but it would not be surprising to see plenty of Fernando Torres as well.
Although Torres has been inconsistent throughout his career, he generally comes through in big moments and should be able to do that once again for the national team.
No matter who is on the pitch, you can expect a great deal of success for the country.
|June 13||4 p.m.||Netherlands||1-1 Draw|
|June 18||4 p.m.||Chile||2-1 Win|
|June 23||1 p.m.||Australia||3-0 Win|
Despite the fact that Spain are one of the World Cup favourites, it is no guarantee that they will make it out of their group. Netherlands were the runners-up of the last World Cup and cruised through qualifying, making them a top contender to make another deep run.
Additionally, manager Vicente del Bosque explained his admiration for the other opponents in the group, via Alfredo Rodriguez of UEFA.com:
We have a lot of respect for Chile, because we know what difficult opponents they are. We have played a few matches against them in recent times, friendlies and competitively, and we've only beaten them pretty narrowly. Australia, they might be the more unknown team. But they have qualified and we shouldn't underestimate them at all.
Of course, just advancing is not enough because the second-place team will have a tough battle likely against the hosts in the round of 16:
Realizing once again that World Cup draw did Brazil no favors. Facing likely Round of 16 game vs Spain, Netherlands or Chile.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 2, 2014
Expect Spain to be relatively conservative against the Dutch, leaving with a draw while ensuring at least one point in the toughest match of the group stage.
After that, things will get better as they utilize their depth and succeed against Chile with a tough win. Spain will then wrap things up against Australia in what should be an easy battle as they secure the group title.
Advancing all the way to the World Cup finals again will be difficult, but the squad at least has the ability to win a difficult Group B and move into the knockout stage.
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