Spain is on the cusp of making history. Winners of the last three major international tournaments—Euro 2008 and 2012, and the 2010 World Cup—La Furia Roja can further cement their place in the soccer pantheon by repeating as champions in Brazil. Think they can’t do it? Think again. Manager Vicente Del Bosque can rely on the core of the 2010 winning side, and has also introduced a number of new players, such as Diego Costa, in making Spain a force to be reckoned with in Brazil.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David de Gea (Manchester United)
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Juanfran Torres (Atletico Madrid)
Midfielders: Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Juan Mata (Manchester United)
Forwards: Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
After taking over from Luis Aragones—who guided Spain to victory at Euro 2008—Vincente Del Bosque went on to lead the national team to their first-ever World Cup in 2010, and then to retain the European Championship in 2012. He is the only manager to have won the Champions League (with Real Madrid), the European Championship, and the World Cup.
4-3-3: (GK) Casillas – (D) Azpilicueta, Ramos, Pique, Alba – (M) Xavi, Alonso, Busquets – (F) Iniesta, Costa, Silva
Group B schedule
June 13: vs. The Netherlands in Salvador
June 18: vs. Chile in Rio
June 23: vs. Australia in Curitiba
How they qualified
Spain was presented with a unique challenge in qualifying, drawing the short straw by landing in UEFA’s smallest group, with only five teams, but also being the Pot 1 team drawn against France, the highest-ranked Pot 2 team and arguably the most dangerous. Spain, as ever, didn’t disappoint—going undefeated with just two draws marring their perfect run, and conceding just three goals, the fewest in European qualifying.
Depth. Spain is so stacked that they could leave players the calibre of Jesus Navas, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo at home. Spain’s tiki taka style of play continues to confound most opponents who end up chasing for most of the game. The midfield is packed with world-class creators, offering Spain dynamism in attack.
They’re in a tough group with the Netherlands and Chile. History is certainly working against them as only Italy (1934-38) and Brazil (1958-62) have repeated as champions. And no European nation has ever won the World Cup on South American soil. They’re not the most physical team, so opponents will try to boss them off the ball and crowd them in midfield.
Players to watch
Andres Iniesta: Quite simply, he’s one of the very best attacking players in the world. A dynamic force when he’s running at full pace, and a dangerous scoring threat.
Sergio Ramos: The central defender is coming off a career season at Real Madrid. A tough-minded defender who can also score goals.
Diego Costa: A brilliant goal-scorer who snubbed his native Brazil to play for Spain. A major reason why Atletico Madrid won La Liga this season.
Will Costa overcome injury concerns? The Brazilian-born forward bagged 27 goals in La Liga, helping Atletico Madrid win its first league title since 1996. But he was troubled by a nagging leg injury down the season stretch, and was named to the Spanish squad despite not being fully fit. Costa is expected to start ahead of Fernando Torres and David Villa, so there’s a world of pressure resting on his shoulders.
Prospects in Brazil
A lot of pundits are writing Spain off, claiming they’re too old and still reeling from last year’s devastating loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final. How silly! Spain enters the tournament as the number one ranked team in the world and possessing depth at every position. It’s a tough group, but they should top it, and anything less than a semifinal run would be shocking. Expect them to reach the final.
World Cup history
These days Spain is the best team in the world—defending World Cup champions and winners of back-to-back European titles. But for decades La Furia Roja were soccer’s perpetual underachievers. From 1930-2010 the best result they’d had at the World Cup was a lone fourth-place finish in 1950. Victory at Euro 2008 marked an era of Spanish domination in international soccer, and now the Spaniards have a shot at becoming only the third nation to repeat as World Cup champions.
• 1930—Did not enter
• 1950—Fourth place
• 1954 and 1958—Did not qualify
• 1962 and 1966—First round
• 1970 and 1974—Did not qualify
• 1978—First round
• 1982—Second round
• 1990—Second round
• 1998—First round
• 2006—Second round
Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States