Spain's Squad Players Who Could Have a Huge Impact at 2014 FIFA World Cup

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

LANDOVER, MD - JUNE 07:  Koke of Spain runs with the ball during an international friendly match between El Salvador and Spain at FedExField on June 7, 2014 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Spain head into the 2014 FIFA World Cup as reigning champions and an all-round superpower, having won three major tournaments in a row since 2008.

They will be the team to beat, the nation who perhaps in a strange way have the most to prove and, crucially, have players who know how to get the job done and win big matches.

It's no secret how they play, with their passing, probing, possession-based approach alternately infuriating and delighting onlookers over the past half-dozen years. The players in the squad are renowned the world over—from back to front, the spine of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and David Silva have swept all before them and could conceivably do so again.

Carmelo Rubio/Associated Press

If Spain are to taste success once more, though, a new group of players will have to have an impact, quite possibly off the bench, taking the place of their more illustrious, trophy-laden team-mates.



Atletico Madrid's Koke has been a star in the Champions League this season but also showed continual improvement and consistent form domestically. He ended up as a winner of La Liga, of course, and a runner-up in Europe, but looking beyond the 2013-14 season he is absolutely en route to being one of Europe's top players.

Capable of playing on either side of midfield, for Spain Koke could actually be used centrally more often, particularly as a replacement for Xavi late on in matches or when a more aggressive, energetic presence is required.

Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Koke has also played at full-back for the international team and thus offers plenty of versatility, though it is his great industry, technique and link-up play which makes him an invaluable new addition to the Spain squad.

If Diego Costa is the starting forward, Vicente del Bosque may believe Koke could be the one who can get the best out of the Brazilian-born goalscorer. He has just eight caps so far but will surpass that total many times over in the coming seasons.


Cesar Azpilicueta

Full-back Cesar Azpilicueta has managed to sneak into the squad ahead of the likes of Dani Carvajal and Alberto Moreno with his ability to play on either side of the defence, allowing Spain to take an extra attacking player in the squad.

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 05:  Cesar Azpilicueta of Spain in action during the   international friendly match between Spain and Italy at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on March 5, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Azpilicueta is a very steady defender, tenacious in the tackle and conscientious in his positional play, but he will also support the team from deep, helping to retain and recycle possession and offering himself as an option to run beyond the midfield line when required.

With only three natural full-backs in the squad it's inevitable that he will have to contribute at some point, whether by fatigue, rotation or enforced changes, so the Chelsea man will be adding to his six caps sooner or later.

If he performs well there's no reason why he couldn't stay in the side as the tournament goes on, and he'll certainly be a fixture in the squad in future.


David Villa

Costa is expected to get the nod to start, and Spain may even opt to play without a recognised forward, but in his final major tournament David Villa will want to have some kind of telling impact.

LANDOVER, MD - JUNE 07:  David Villa of Spain shoots towards goal during an international friendly match between El Salvador and Spain at FedExField on June 7, 2014 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

No longer at the peak of his game and having endured a difficult second half of the season despite winning La Liga with Atletico, he still has enough of his desire and predatory instinct left to be a poacher off the bench for Spain.

For a team who won the last World Cup with just eight goals in seven matches, such a talent is no laughing matter.

Villa might not be the striker king of old, but the all-time record scorer for Spain, with 58 goals in 96 caps so far, likely has one big strike left in him. When it comes to the crunch and they need a goal in the knockouts, you can bet your last dollar/euro/pound/real that it will be Villa to whom Del Bosque turns.

Spain's starting XI is as good as anything the rest of the world have to offer, but they will have to trust their options off the bench at some point if they are to record an unprecedented fourth consecutive major title.