Spain – Group B – World Cup profile

Defending champions Spain cast a significant shadow in Group B of this summer’s World Cup, but the European nation have been handed a tricky test in their pool.

Although the company is expected to be too rich for Australia, both Netherlands and Chile will push La Roja hard in the quest to make the knockout rounds.

Having won their first-ever World Cup four years ago and claimed glory in the European Championships on either side of the South Africa success, it has been an unbelievable run of dominance by the Iberian nation.

The players available for Spain and their collective identity ensure that they will be one of the frontrunners again this time round.

Confirmed squad

The 30-man squad named as a preliminary contingent is packed with incredible quality and world-class stars, with the majority of the World Cup-winning bunch from four years ago still going strong.

A host of uncapped stars have also been named in the initial group, including the immensely talented Gerard Deulofeu, Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal and Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Iturraspe.

Traditionally Real Madrid and Barcelona players completely dominate Spain squads, but only 12 of the 30 are from the El Clàsico sides.

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli), David de Gea (Manchester United)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Juanfran (Atlético Madrid), Raúl Albiol (Napoli), Javi Martínez (Bayern Munich), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla), Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué (Barcelona), César Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas, Sergio Busquets, Xavi (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Juan Mata (Manchester United), David Silva (Manchester City), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Ander Iturraspe (Athletic Bilbao), Koke (Atlético Madrid), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Jesús Navas (Manchester City)

Attackers: Diego Costa, David Villa (Atlético Madrid), Álvaro Negredo (Manchester City), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Fernando Llorente (Juventus), Pedro (Barcelona)

Notable absentees

A fully-fit team of players that have been overlooked or are unavailable for Spain would take some beating in any international competition.

Injury has robbed La Roja of a number of considerable talent, with Thiago Alcântara initially named in the squad but having to withdraw.

Víctor Valdés and Álvaro Arbeloa are two others that surely would have been in the group but are sidelined due to fitness concerns.

Isco’s omission was somewhat surprising, while Nacho Monreal was edged out at left-back. Ander Herrera did not make the cut either.

Not many will be surprised that Roberto Soldado was overlooked, while Michu’s injury plagued club campaign ended the Swansea man’s dreams of featuring.

Given that seven players have to be removed from the 30-man list before June 2, Spain will leave considerable talent to watch the competition at home.

Coach profile

Vicente del BosqueThey say you can only work with the tools you are given, good or bad. However, Vicente del Bosque has been the lucky man to steer a golden generation of Spanish footballers to a momentous period of success.

The former Real Madrid coach should certainly take a lot of credit for the national side’s success, despite the players at his disposal, and his tactics have been innovative over his six years in charge.

The fact that the 63-year-old had not managed for three years before being appointed Spain boss in 2008 shows his adaptability and ability to get astonishingly quick results.

Despite the predictable-yet-unstoppable tactics that Spain have adopted under Del Bosque, the coach has frequently tried new things, has not rested on his laurels and gave plenty of players a chance to improve the side.

Formation / tactics

Spain’s dominance over football matches is a result of their selfish control of the football, with their tiki-taka style mirrored on the Barcelona mentality.

Expect this to continue, with plenty of opponents chasing shadows fruitlessly this summer.

Spain caused a few eyebrows to be raised by winning Euro 2012 without a recognised number nine in their side, but whether or not a false nine is deployed this time, Del Bosque’s customised 4-3-3 formation is sure to continue.

Again modeled on the Camp Nou equivalent, the champions’ side will have three immensely able central midfielders as the crux of the team, with plenty of options ahead of that.

Although the potential to start Cesc Fàbregas as a false nine still exists, it seems likely that Del Bosque will look to an out-and-out striker this time round.

The controversial inclusion of Diego Costa will really add to the side’s dynamic, while in Fernando Llorente and Álvaro Negredo they have two more powerful, clinical and on-form centre forwards to choose from.

In wide areas Del Bosque has the luxury to pick guile or speed, or a combination of both.

David Silva will surely command a starting spot on one flank, with other playmakers such as Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata also there to offer creativity and technique.

If it is pace that is needed, Pedro will likely be the man that is called upon, with Jesús Navas also an option.

Weaknesses? On first sight there are not many.

Right-back is an area of potential vulnerability, as the three solid options in the initial squad lack experience at national level.

If Spain are to be beaten, it will be by a dynamic side that can upset their rhythm; Atlético Madrid and Bayern Munich’s elimination of Barcelona in the last two Champions Leagues is something of a blueprint.

Key player

Xabi AlonsoXabi Alonso – Although Barcelona midfield pair Xavi and Andrés Iniesta are essential components of this wonderful Spain side, the team is steered forward by the unique talents of Xabi Alonso.

The deep-lying playmaker continues to exert his authority for club and country, while instilling massive confidence in those around him with his calm and controlling demeanour.

The Real Madrid man orchestrates the pace of the game while simultaneously acting as a buffer in front of his team’s back four.

His incredible reading of the game, range of passing and exemplary positional sense make him one of the best of a generation in world football.

One to watch out for

Koke – Although the starting XI is likely to feature all the familiar faces, one man that deserves to be thrown into the mix is Koke.

Breaking up the midfield unit of Alonso, Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets is quite the task, but the Atleti playmaker has shown he has all the abilities to be as influential as his predecessors in the near future.

With Xavi in particular not playing as important a role at club level, the vibrancy and energy of Koke could well be an option that Del Bosque goes for when picking his team.

Prediction

It is hard to look past Spain again this time round, with the players and collective ethos of the squad not in the slightest bit diminished after six years of, well, just being too good.

There are only two or three teams in world football that could topple Spain if conditions were favourable, but anyone coming up against La Roja will surely be underdogs.

If Spain and Brazil both win their groups they will go into opposite ends of the knockout draw and could well meet in a simply mouth-watering final on July 13.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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