6 Reasons Why Spain Will Be Favorites to Win World Cup in Brazil
Immediately after the final whistle blew on Spain's Euro 2012 triumph, the speculation began on whether La Roja could make it four major tournaments in a row in 2014 at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Spain have clearly shown they are the strongest team in Europe, but they will face a much tougher task in two years time.
Not only will 16 more teams be entered in the World Cup than at the Euros, but teams like Brazil, Argentina and Mexico will be more than ready to challenge the claim to the throne of international football that Spain currently holds.
However, Spain will still be a very formidable force going into Brazil, and here are six reasons why they will be the favorites in 2014.
Shutout Record in Knockout Round
As much as everyone pays attention to their offense, their defense has not let up a goal in knockout play since they were knocked out of the 2006 World Cup by France in the Round of 16.
The back four for Spain has been solid throughout three tournaments, with Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and Carles Puyol being the core in the back with a few different players covering the other spots in the back four.
And do not expect them to give up many goals in group games, either. Spain have only let in six goals in nine group games in the last three major tournaments.
Some people can argue that Iker Casillas is the best player on the Spanish team.
Casillas has been the first-choice goalkeeper for Spain since the 2002 World Cup, and he does not appear to be leaving the team anytime soon.
The captain of the Spanish national team has earned 137 caps for his country and could easily get close to 200 caps, as he is still only 31 years old.
And just in case you were not aware, that shutout streak Spain has in knockout rounds, all of those shutouts were when Casillas was in net.
If you just look at Spain's roster for Euro 2012, you will quickly realize that Spain has quite the depth chart of players.
In defense at Euro 2012, center-back Carles Puyol was out injured and it was like he never left the lineup, as Sergio Ramos moved inside and Jordi Alba took care of the left-back position and was one of the best players of the tournament.
In the midfield, players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso are usually on the pitch to start the game, but just in case they need a rest, players like Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas, Juan Mata and Cesc Fabregas are available off the bench.
Up front, if Spain ever play with a true forward again, Fernando Torres saw a ton of action at Euro 2012 and the injured David Villa will be back from injury.
And do not forget the endless amounts of Spanish talent that has not reached the major tournament spotlight yet, including Javi Martinez, Cristian Tello and Oriol Romeu.
David Villa Will Be Healthy
David Villa was absent from the Euro 2012 squad after suffering a broken leg against Al Sadd in the Club World Cup back in December.
Villa tried to fight his way back to fitness for the tournament, but it was too short of a time period after his injury.
The 30-year-old Barcelona forward has scored 51 international goals in 82 appearance for Spain since making his debut back in 2005.
Villa be the true forward that Spain will want to play with up front, and he will look to reach the 100-appearance mark going into Brazil, as his age may limit him to just one more World Cup.
The Tiki-Taka Passing Game Will Still Be Present
Although it was not fully present against Italy in the Euro 2012 Final, Spain dominated most of the tournament with their trademark tiki-taka passing style.
The midfield maestros for Spain will still be there as well, with Andres Iniesta, 28, and Xavi, 32, being around for at least one more major tournament.
And if you are wondering about the ages of the other midfielders, the only other midfielder on the Euro 2012 roster that will be over 30 in Brazil will be Xabi Alonso, who will be 32 in 2014.
So even if Iniesta and Xavi are not in top form, which is highly unlikely, there are young, fresh bodies ready to continue the tradition of the tiki-taka.
Spain Play Like a Team, Not Like Individuals
It seems that almost every national team has a high-strung player with a huge ego, but that is not the case with Spain.
Spain does not have a Cristiano Ronaldo or Mario Balotelli; they have 11 men who step on the pitch and do their job.
Ironically enough, La Roja fielded a starting 11 in the Euro 2012 Final that consisted of four Real Madrid and six Barcelona players.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are bitter rivals at the club level but when it gets to the international stage, all of the Spanish club differences are put aside and they play as a cohesive unit.