The Numero Uno country by FIFA standards and a dominant team in the world football scenario, Spain has once again qualified for the FIFA World Cup,due to be held in Brazil this year.
Placed in group B, the Spaniards will have to fight off tough opposition from Netherlands to ensure they top the group and obtain a more probabilistic chance of facing an easier team in the knock out phases. Chile and Australia will be much more lightweight opponents against the Spanish giants but then no game is easy in this tournament.
Vicente Del Bosque has gone from strength to strength of the squad and has utilized the power house in the Spanish midfield; Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso and the others have reproduced the beautiful tiki-taka style of play to subdue even some of the strongest opponents. The breakthrough of David Silva and Jesus Navas at Manchester City has been inspirational for the club and Del Bosque will surely look forward to retaining the World Cup for Spain after their last win in South Africa at the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Goal-keepers: Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina
Defenders: Jordi Alba, Raul Albiol, Sergio Ramos, Azpilicueta, Juanfran, Arbeloa.
MidFielders: Xavi,Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquests, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Jesus Navas, Santi Cazarola, Thiago Alcantara, Javi Martinez, Koke.
Attackers: Diego Costa, Negredo, Pedro, Soldado, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Fernando Lorente.
Prior to the World Cup win in the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa, Spain had suffered the quarter final jinx for a long time. The last time before 2010 they had earned success was in 1950 when they finished fourth behind Uruguay, Brazil and Sweden. Luis Suarez Miramontes , Emilio Butragueno were some of the stars of Spain in the past and in recent times, there have been the likes of Iniesta and Puyol.
Their success in the Euro competitions in 2008 and 2012 will also serve as an inspiration for them to achieve their glory and maintain their dominance in world football.
Players to look out for:
1. Diego Costa:
The player Brazil lost has led to Spain’s profit and Del Bosque will make sure to utilize the aggressiveness of Diego Costa. An expert marksman without a doubt, Diego Costa will be a valuable addition to the Spain attack which already boasts the likes of Fernando Torres, Alvaro Negredo, David Villa and Roberto Soldado. Of only 25 years of age, Costa chose to play for Spain over his birth land Brazil in the international stage. With a fine season at Atletico Madrid yet to draw to completion, Diego Costa will look forward to maintain form and earn a place in the World Cup.
The only discomfort Costa might face, is the style of play of the national team. Atletico under Simeone employs a more direct approach with pacey counter attacks whereas Del Bosque employs a far more patient approach rebuilding and recreating with short passes. Costa’s ingenuity and at times bruteness can reinstill the fire in the Spanish squad and help them to achieve the right balance of crafty and physical football.
2. Andres Iniesta:
Constantly performing and evolving with every game, Andres Iniesta is still the player to look out for even after 4 years of scoring the winner against Netherlands. He was also one of the key figures contributing towards Spain’s domination at the Euro 2008 and 2012. Iniesta will play an instrumental role in any position he is played by Del Bosque. His combination with Xavi is a threat on the field, having played for several years at F.C.Barcelona together.
As Iniesta still recovers from the trauma of having lost his child after his wife had suffered a miscarriage, his performance on field hasn’t been affected.
3. Iker Casillas:
Captain dependable for the Spanish squad, Iker Casillas doesn’t make many mistakes between the bars. With 153 appearances for the senior national squad, he is a proud captain of a squad which has dominated two Euro cups and a World cup and he will be surely aiming for the record second. Cool and composed he leads the team from the front with his magnificently acrobatic saves .
Spains main strength has always been the understanding and co-ordination among the team. Half of the team plays at Barcelona and naturally they get along well and know distinctly how the other players function. Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Pedro, Jordi Alba, Busquests all have been plying their trade for the Catalan giants. David Silva, Jesus Navas and Negredo also play together at Manchester City. Sergio Ramos, Arbeloa, Iker Cassilas, Xabi Alonso play for Real Madrid. These small and large groups of players playing at the same club all throughout a season leads to development of a great deal of understanding between the players instilling a sense of team spirit and trust among this players. Diego Costa’s contribution to the team will be invaluable. The depth in their midfield is strong enough that they do not require more than one striker on the field. Sometimes Del Bosque doesn’t even require a striker and employs Fabregas to glide around as the false striker. And then there is Iker Casillas between the bars.
Another strength in the team will be their persistence. They look to build up the game by playing intricate and subtle passes. Every time they lose the ball upfront they rebuild. With the players moving in and out of positions and the ball being passed around at high speed, their opponents are often left frustrated.
The main point of concern for the manager will be the defence. Sergio Ramos is highly susceptible to being red carded due to his rash game play and often meaningless tackles.
Gerrad Pique is still recovering from his hip fracture and his presence at the World Cup is still doubtful. Added on to that, Victor Valdes’ injury will keep the 2nd choice goal keeper out from selections.
Besides these problems in defence, the tiki-taka style of play has been found to have a weakness when close marking is being employed. By not allowing the Spanish players enough space and time to pass, the opponents often take control of the game with their long balls and counter attacking game play. Brazil proved this theory to be highly effective against Spain by defeating them in the Confederations Cup.
Spain try to rebuild their game from scratch utilizing their passing but this tactic often ends up backfiring. Their opponents often defend with ten men and this way they are bound to lose possession and their opponents score with speedy counter attacks. What happens to be their strength often leaves them exposed.
The ability of Diego Costa in the International scenario is still untested. He has mostly played in Europe and is accounted for his success on European pitches. He might just be lacking on some vital experience at the international level. In the last friendly against Italy, Diego Costa was relatively quieter than he usually is at Atletico trying to learn the dynamics of the team’s game.
The dip in form for both Fernando Torres and David Villa will also take away Del Bosque’s options in the reserve striker category.
With a 4-3-3 formation at their disposal, it will be a hard job to nullify Costa’s presence at the front supported by either Pedro and Iniesta or Pedro and Navas from the wings. The real fight for a starting XI position will occur in the midfield. Xavi’s presence a surety, the other two might be Alonso and Busquets in the starting XI. Fabregas, Silva will probably come in as substitutes. The defence will be held by Ramos, Arbeloa and Alba. Some issues still revolve around Pique’s fitness but he is expected to recover; if not, Raul Albiol might benefit. Captain fantastic Casillas doesn’t make many mistakes.
Yes the Spanish Armada can be sunk( as proved by the Brazilians) , but in no way can they be underestimated. They will be expected to make a semi-final appearance again. But from then on it will be their performance in those crucial ninety minutes that will decide their future.
Spanish fans can expect Spain to lift the cup but the squad has to put in their 100% if they want to defend their title successfully.