La Roja will kick off their title defence against the Netherlands at Arena Fonte Nova on June 14, in what will be a rematch of the 2010 final. Spain will be looking forward to achieving two things no other footballing nation has done before, and that is:
- To win a 4th major trophy in a row (after Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012)
- Be the first European team to do it on South American soil.
Spain are gifted with the sort of squad depth that not even Sheikh Mansour’s billions can buy at Manchester City. At any moment of the match, coach Vicente Del Bosque has the option (or luxury) to bring on Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, and Santi Cazorla to make a difference. If there was anything close to decadence in football, this squad would be it.
With Iker Casillas behind the impressive back line of Cesar Azpilicueta, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, it seems like they are already secured at the back heading into the World Cup.
Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets will be required to retain the ball and unlock defences in the 4-2-3-1 system, as they let the three creative midfielders in front of them work their magic. Defenders will have to be on red alert to prevent the likes of Pedro Rodriguez, Andres Iniesta and David Silva from dictating play.
Spain’s reliance on an ageing David Villa, a misfiring Fernando Torres, and the “False 9” system seemed to resemble an Achilles heel at times, so the inclusion of Diego Costa will make for a very welcome addition.
The concern for Spain might be that the one midfielder who has been at the heart of the nation’s success is ageing. Xavi, tiki taka’s greatest exponent and a 132-cap veteran, is 34. At an age where fitness levels decline, there is a niggling fear that he might not be able to produce the same sort of magic he did in years past. When everyone around you is discussing who your successor should be, that possibility becomes even more real.
La Roja have only lifted the cup once and that was back in 2010 thanks to an extra-time goal from midfield maestro Iniesta. They will be looking forward to making history in Rio.
Take a glance at the Spanish squad and it’s obvious that they have a wealth of talent in midfield. That is why Brazil-born Diego Costa will be the key player, as he will have to finish off the chances that the midfield provides him with. The hamstring tear he suffered in the Champions League Final last month isn’t as serious as first feared, so he is still expected to play a huge part for La Roja. Having been granted Spanish citizenship back in September 2013, it will be a controversial moment if he were to lift the trophy for Spain, at the place of his birth.
How far will they go?
With Spain, you can always be assured that they will be passing the ball to the final stages of any tournament. To do that, they will need Costa to be fully fit, and Alonso, Xavi and Iniesta to replicate their magic from 2010. A place in the final would surprise no one, and winning it would surprise even fewer. Preventing complacency from creeping into the squad is key, as the core of this team has won everything there is to win.