FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Spain
By Young Kim
For the next 32 days, I will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview. If you think my comments or opinions about a certain team is incorrect, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will respond to your questions on a mailbag post before the first day of the World Cup.
Group B: Netherlands
Nickname: La Furia Roja
Previous World Cups: 1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 (Won)
FIFA Ranking: 1
How Did They Get Here?
The Spanish finished their qualifying campaign at the top of their group, which consisted of France, Finland, Georgia, and Belarus. Spain had no difficulty in their matches, finishing with a 6-2-0 record in their group.
Opponents (Match Date): Netherlands (6/13), Chile (6/18), Australia (6/23)
Finish in Group: First
Why Finish In First?
How do I explain this in a way that it makes sense to you? Well…umm, they’re the best. There’s no other way to put it. This isn’t to say Spain is the best team in the World Cup, but they certainly hold the advantage in their group despite their declining defense. Spain has been able to integrate young players into their lineup and not hinder their ability to play that tiki-taka football. It’s almost as if a new player is just an interchangeable part to the Spanish clockwork. Yeah, getting out of the group in first place shouldn’t be a problem for the 2010 champions.
Grading each position:
Keeper: Iker Casillas isn’t the same keeper that he was back in 2010 and has dealt with injuries this season with Real Madrid. That doesn’t hinder the fact that he is still one of the best keepers in the world. He produced six shutouts in 12 UEFA Champions League matches this season and conceded 0.67 goals on average. His nimble reflexes, ability to read the offense, and veteran leadership make him a top choice for not only Spain, but the world.
Defense: The starting backline will likely consist of FC Barcelona’s Jordi Alba at left back and Gerard Pique at center back, Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos as the other center-back position, and Chelsea FC’s Cesar Azpilicueta at right back. Although these players will be starting due to their cohesiveness on the national team, it’s hard to ignore Pique’s bout with injury and Ramo’s disciplinary issues (13 yellows, 3 reds). There’s still a vote of confidence to be given for the insurance they have off the bench including Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran and Napoli’s Raul Albiol. Can this backline hold up until the semifinals? You bet they will. Can they last until the final? I don’t know what to say about that.
Midfield: Tiki-Taka starts and ends with the midfield core of Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Manchester City’s David Silva and Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso. Spain is blessed to have six world-class midfielders whom they can interchange one another with and not see a significant drop-off. Unfortunately, Spain can’t rely heavily on Xavi to engineer the ball movement due to his age and declining skill. This isn’t good considering head coach Vicente del Bosque will likely opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation and seems more willing to play the same midfielders from the 2010 World Cup. If the 2013 Confederation Cup taught Spain anything, it’s that the world has caught onto their blueprint and can disassemble the tiki-taka. Spain should turn the page on Xavi and pass the torch over to Atletico Madrid’s Koke, who’s had a fantastic season. Koke looks like a player who can buy into Spain’s philosophy that the best defense is ball-movement and possession. If Koke plays, Spain will look like a more refreshed unit.
Attack: Diego Costa has only played one match for Spain and has yet to score. Moreover, in his lone match against Italy he had trouble looking cohesive with the midfielders and vice versa. Still, Spain should give the Atletico Madrid forward more chance to work with the national side (and start Koke!) to build on-field chemistry. Besides, you can’t ignore those 27 goals he scored for Atleti in this La Liga season, which is more than what Fernando Torres*, Alvaro Negredo, and David Villa scored for their clubs this season combined.
*I could have sworn to I saw a “Missing” ad on Craigslist four years ago regarding the whereabouts of Fernando Torres’ talent. It’s funny how in the last four years of Torres’ career, when a footballer should be in his prime, he’s spiraled downward and looked like he was playing out-of-shape and allergic to the net.
Coaching: Vincent Del Bosque is a great coach, but it’s hard to take him seriously as a human being*. He simply knows the formula to get Spain to succeed and maintain their beautiful possession game, but he hasn’t shown the ability to switch tactics in case their game gets exposed (As seen in the Confederation Cup final against Brazil). Although he’s making the right choice of opting to keep the 4-2-3-1 formation, he should look at several in-form players like Koke and trust them over the usual holdovers from the 2012 Euros. Still, can’t the fact that this emotionless leader did lead his team to the 2010 World Cup finals and the 2012 Euros. He may still have some tricks up his sleeves.
*Lets not jump into unreasonable conclusions that Del Bosque is a racist until we discover a tape recording of Del Bosque telling his arm candy about “the enemy”.
How Can They Win The World Cup?
Same way they did it back in 2010, with brilliant possession game to keep the ball away from opponents. It’s tiring to label this team as the ones that could win it all, but the Spanish lack a serious weakness that can easily be taken advantage of. Moreover, Costa’s form and the rise of Koke could add an element of flare to their tiki-taka tactics. That only spells trouble for teams standing in Spain’s way. Good luck to them on establishing any sort of rhythm before Spain does.
What’s There To Like About Spain?
Well there are a lot of things to like about Spain. They boast one the best football leagues in the entire world that is host to two of the best players in the world (Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo). They have delicious dishes like paella and tortilla espanola.
Oh yeah, there’s this insane thing they do called “Running of the Bulls.”
If you don’t see a World Cup prospectus for 2018, chances are I died with my manhood beneath the hooves of many bulls.
Nothing is out of the ordinary for this year’s kit except for the enlarged crest. Seriously, you never see the Lakers switching out the purple and gold after winning 16 championships. What makes you think Spain will even consider changing theirs?