Spain Preview – A Step Too Far For La Roja?
World Cup 2014
Surely defending a Would Cup would be a step too far for this now legendary Spanish squad?
Spain were 1-0 winners in their last game, with Barcelona forward Pedro grabbing the only goal of the game against Italy in Madrid back in March.
They were surprisingly beaten 1-0 by South Africa in their friendly outing prior to that, and only beat lowly Equatorial Guinea 2-1 in between the two.
Vicente Del Bosque’s charges looked in danger of missing out on automatic qualification following successive home draws with France and Finland but beat both away from home to ease their fears and finished top of the pile ahead of the French.
Their possession game makes them a hugely difficult side to score against –
they conceded only three in their eight group games – but they often fail to turn their dominance of the ball into goals;
Spain scored a respectable but far from earth-shattering 14 in qualification and only scored more than twice on one occasion.
Del Bosque still has to cut seven from his formidable squad, with doubts over the fitness of Diego Costa perhaps of benefit to the out of form Fernando Torres.
Bilbao’s Ander Iturraspe was a shock inclusion while the experienced Alvaro Arbeloa missed out but most of the usual suspects remain.
Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David De Gea (Manchester Utd)
Defenders: Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos (both Real Madrid), Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba (both Barcelona), Cesar Azplicueta (Chelsea), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla).
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas (all Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Ander Iturraspe (Athletic Bilbao), David Silva (Manchester City), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Juan Mata (Manchester Utd), Jesus Navas (Manchester City).
Forwards: Diego Costa, David Villa (both Atletico Madrid), Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Fernando Llorente (Juventus), Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
Take your pick – Spain’s first two fixtures are worthy of quarter-final games at the very least, their first is a replay of the World Cup final in South Africa, while Chile are an extremely dangerous side capable of beating anyone on their day.
It may be to the Spaniard’s advantage that they face group minnows Australia last, likely to be aware of how much of a winning margin they need in order to progress to the knockout stages and they will want to avoid a second round meeting with the hosts if at all possible so will be eager to mirror Brazil’s placing in Group A.
13 June, Spain v Netherlands, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, 20:00
18 June, Spain v Chile, Estadio do Maracana, Rio de Janeiro, 20:00
23 June, Australia v Spain, Arena da Baixada, Curitiba, 17:00
They may be past their peak but this Spain side have the knowhow to navigate a tournament that no other team at the tournament possesses so the 13/2 on a fourth straight major title seems generous. Del Bosque will be hopeful Costa remains injury-free so they have a cutting edge, but they always seem to find a way.
Take them to win Group B at 8/11 while an each way bet on the Spaniards to confirm their status as perhaps the greatest international side of all time is also well worth a punt.