Spain will try to start their 2014 World Cup run the same way the 2010 event ended, with a win over the Netherlands. With many of the same players on the squad, there is a good chance for a repeat performance in Brazil.
Formulating a roster was a tough task for Vicente del Bosque due to the overwhelming talent available at his disposal. Elite talent like Isco, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and others were left off the squad as the precious 23 spots only went to the best of the best.
The team announced the final squad on its official Twitter account:
OFFICIAL | These are the 23 players who will represent us in a DREAM to conquer the second WORLD CUP! pic.twitter.com/nLWIKMCGDD— Selección Española (@SeFutbol) May 31, 2014
While getting the list of names down to 23 is hard, picking the best 11 is just as difficult. However, it seems as though the team has found the best lineup to defeat the Netherlands.
Here is a list of the starters for the opening match:
Although there is certain to be plenty of debate over the players on the pitch, here is a breakdown of what to expect from the squad in this game.
While there are clearly talented options like David de Gea, there was little doubt that Iker Casillas would be the No. 1 goalkeeper for the World Cup. The Real Madrid man has the talent to anchor the defense and the experience of someone who has been there before.
Even if he is up there in age at 33 years old, Casillas has already won a World Cup and is the man who will try to win another one for the favorites.
Unless there is an injury, the goalkeeper will remain on the pitch throughout the tournament.
There were few questions about who would start in the middle of the defense for Spain. Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos have been two of the best centre-backs in the world and they will continue to play next to each other in a dominant back line.
The only problem at this position is a lack of depth, as noted by AS:
Only Ramos, Piqué & Albiol as out and out central defenders. Del Bosque's cunning plan is to use Busquets and Javi Martínez if need be.— AS English (@English_AS) May 13, 2014
This will really only be an issue in the case of injury, because there is little chance these two veterans will need to be replaced.
On the outside, Jordi Alba has earned his spot at left-back and should continue to be the starter. He knows how to be in good position defensively while also providing plenty of help with his ability to push things forward.
The only real question is at right-back, where a few talented players deserve playing time. Cesar Azpilicueta gets the start for the first match, but it is possible that Juanfran makes his way onto the pitch at some point in the group stage after a great year with Atletico Madrid.
Spain have excelled in matches with various formations, but it seems as though the squad will stick with a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The truth is that no matter which players are on the pitch, the team will have plenty of success when it comes to maintaining possession and creating the best possible opportunities on the attack.
Sergio Busquets will play a holding position as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. Alongside of him will be the experienced Xabi Alonso, who has been a big part of the team's success in the past and still has the ability to contribute at the international level.
Playing in more attacking roles will be Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and David Silva. The good thing is that Spain have some of the best passers in the world to choose from, as noted by this statistic:
Most final 3rd passes completed in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season: Xavi (813), Cazorla (785), Fábregas (759), Özil (756), Iniesta (730)— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 8, 2014
Four of the five players are on the Spanish roster, and each of them is likely to get onto the pitch in this tournament.
The group competing against the Netherlands will be able to have the big advantage in the middle of the pitch and should be able to control the action throughout the 90 minutes.
The biggest question heading into the World Cup was the health of Diego Costa. The striker starred for Atletico Madrid this season, but he injured his hamstring in the final match of the season.
However, Costa recently explained that he will be ready to play right away, via AS:
I feel good, I’ve had treatment this week after the Champions League final and it’s been a while since I’ve had time to recover [properly]. Now I want to train, because I’ve done hardly anything for some weeks; what's important is training a bit. Will I make the first match of the World Cup? Of course, why not.
The fact that he is in the lineup shows that he is truly ready to compete and will attempt to be the team's top scorer.
Meanwhile, Fernando Torres is also expected to contribute up front after coming through in big situations in the past. He is a quality finisher when given the opportunity and will certainly hear his name called quite a bit in this tournament.
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