Team Profile: Spain
- Coach: Vicente del Bosque
- Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool/England), Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
- Defenders: Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Joan Capdevila (Villarreal), Carlos Marchena (Valencia), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
- Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Javier Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), David Silva (Valencia), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)
- Forwards: Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Juan Mata (Valencia), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), David Villa (Valencia)
Style of play: The key behind Spain`s attacking and fluent 4-1-3-2 formation is possession. The Spaniards play tiki-taka soccer, a fast-paced, pass-and-move game, with emphasis on making a quick series of slick passes and maintaining possession as long as possible. Tiki-taka has two tactical advantages: 1) it allows Spain to dominate the pace of the game and possession, and 2) it takes pressure of the defence - Spain keeps the ball for the majority of the match, which means the other team doesn't see it and can't attack its defence. For all its passing expertise, however, Spain can also be direct, using its speed on the break and the counter to burn the opposition. Xabi Alonso disrupts the opposition and distributes the ball from his midfield position just in front of the defence, while Xavi and Andres Iniesta team up and weave passing patterns up the field, slipping the ball to forwards Fernando Torres and David Villa, who make the most of their scoring chances.
1st round matches:
- June 16 vs. Switzerland in Durban
- June 21 vs. Honduras in Johannesburg
- June 25 vs. Chile in Pretoria
Projected starting lineup (4-1-3-2): (GK) Iker Casillas - (D) Joan Capdevilla, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Carlos Puyol - (M) Xavi Hernandez, David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta - (F) Fernando Torres , David Villa
- World-class depth: Spain has such incredible talent at every position that it could field two teams in South Africa. How much depth do they have? Consider that Barcelona's Victor Valdes is the third-string goalkeeper. Or that forwards Santi Cazorla and Dani Guiza aren't on the team. Or that a player of Cesc Fabregas isn't even a starter!
- Possession game: Spain dominates the ball, often racking up in excess of 70 per cent possession of the ball during the game, a bi-product of their pass-and-move style. Xavi Hernandez, David Silva, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta are renowned for their mastery of the ball and passing skill, forming the best midfield quartet in all of international soccer. Opposing teams will have a hard time winning the ball off of Spain.
- Supreme confidence: Winning Euro 2008 allowed Spain to shake off the label of chokers and perennial underachievers. Ever since then, the Spaniards have been virtually unbeatable, easily brushing aside opponents and playing with a supreme confidence. There is a cocky swagger to Spain and a firm belief that they can beat any team in the world.
- Injuries: Several of Spain's key players - Fernando Torres, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas - sat out games late in the season with injuries, and may not be fully fit at the start of the World Cup.
- Physical toughness: Spain has a dizzying array of star midfielders with attacking qualities. But coach Vicente del Bosque's decision not to bring Marcos Senna leaves Spain without a defensive enforcer and a physical presence in midfield. While it's important to have midfielders who can make things happen offensively, you also need some grit, steel and nastiness.
- Weight of expectations: Winning Euro 2008 and breezing through the qualifiers with a perfect 10-0 record means Spanish fans and the media expect the national team, noted in the past for bowing out in the early rounds of the World Cup, to win it all in South Africa. It`ll be interesting to see how the Spaniards deal with the immense pressure of being tournament favourites for a change.
Players to watch:
- Fernando Torres - The Liverpool star is lightning quick, a deadly finisher and a player of such high class with the ball at his feet that he routinely makes the spectacular look ordinary. One of the best strikers in the world.
- David Villa - The Valencia forward is almost impossible to mark because he anticipates the run of play and the movement of the ball better than the world's top defenders.
- Xavi - The ball-playing Barcelona star is one of the best midfielders in the game, able to control the pace of the game with his flawless possession skills and impeccable distribution of the ball. Xavi is the heartbeat of the Spanish attack.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Midfielder Marcos Senna, one of Spain's best players at Euro 2008, did not make the cut after suffering through an injury-plagued season with Villarreal. Strikers Santi Cazorla and Dani Guiza, both members of the Euro 2008 team, were also omitted by coach Vicente del Bosque. Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo did not make the final cut. Neither did youngsters Bojan Krkic of Barcelona and Racing Santander's Sergio Canales, Osasuna defender Cesar Azpilicueta, and Liverpool winger Albert Riera. Several key players missed time with their pro clubs late in the season, including striker Fernando Torres, midfielders Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cess Fabregas.
Prognosis: Champions. Along with Brazil, Spain is the top favourite to win the World Cup. La Roja are arguably the best team in the world, and have been virtually unbeatable since winning the 2008 European Championship. This is a squad loaded with world class players at every position. This is also the greatest generation of players Spain has ever produced, with all of them peaking at the same time of their respective careers. A semi-final appearance is the minimum expectation, but you should expect to see Spain playing in the final on July 11 in Johannesburg - and winning it!
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #2
- Qualification route: Spain finished in first place (30 points) in Europe's Group 5 ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina (19 points).
- Key to qualification: Total team effort. Twenty-eight goals scored, only five conceded. This is a side that has world-class players at every position who play as a team, and is not merely a collection of stars.
- Crucial result: A 2-1 win over Turkey (April 1, 2009 in Istanbul) didn't wrap up a World Cup berth, but it sent a message this was the Spaniards' qualifying group to lose.
- Qualifying record: 10 games played, 10 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses
- Goals for: 28
- Goals against: 5
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: David Villa (7)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- Sept. 6, 2008 - Spain 1, Bosnia-Herzegovina 0
- Sept. 10, 2008 - Spain 4, Armenia 0
- Oct. 11, 2008 - Estonia 0, Spain 3
- Oct. 15, 2008 - Belgium 1, Spain 2
- March 28, 2009 - Spain 1, Turkey 0
- April 1, 209 - Turkey 1, Spain 2
- Sept. 5, 2009 - Spain 5, Belgium 0
- Sept. 9, 2009 - Spain 3, Estonia 0
- Oct. 10, 2009 - Armenia 1, Spain 2
- Oct. 14, 2009 - Bosnia-Herzegovina 2, Spain 5
- Number of World Cup appearances: 12
- All-time record: 49 games played, 22 wins, 12 draws, 15 losses
- Goals for: 80
- Goals against: 57
- Biggest victory: 6-1 vs. Bulgaria in 1998
- Biggest defeat: 6-1 vs. Brazil in 1950
- Overall top scorers: Estanislao Basora, Emilio Butragueno, Raul, Fernando Morientes and Fernando Hierro (5 goals)
- Most appearances: Andoni Zubizarreta (16 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: 1982
World Cup track record
- 1930 - Did not enter
- 1934 - Quarter-finals
- 1938 - Did not enter
- 1950 - Second Round (4th place)
- 1954 - Did not qualify
- 1958 - Did not qualify
- 1962 - First Round
- 1966 - First Round
- 1970 - Did not qualify
- 1974 - Did not qualify
- 1978 - First Round
- 1982 - Second Round
- 1986 - Quarter-finals
- 1990 - Second Round
- 1994 - Quarter-finals
- 1998 - First Round
- 2002 - Quarter-finals
- 2006 - Second Round
- FIFA member since: 1904
- Team nickname: La Roja
- All-time caps leader: Andoni Zubizarreta (126)
- All-time leading scorer: Raul (44 goals)
- European Champions: 1964, 2008
- Under-20 World Champions: 1999
- Under-21 European Champions: 1986, 1998
- Under-19 European Champions: 1952, 1954, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007
- Under-17 European Champions: 1986, 1988, 1991, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2008
- Olympic Gold Medal: 1992
- Olympic Silver Medal: 1920, 2000
- Emilio Butragueno: Butragueno earned the nickname "The Vulture" as one of the most dangerous strikers of the 1980s. He scored four goals in a game against Denmark at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, helping Spain reach the quarter-finals. A Real Madrid legend, he led the club to six Spanish league titles between 1986 and 1995.
- Andoni Zubizarreta: Zubizarreta is one of Spain's greatest goalkeepers, appearing in four World Cups (1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998). He earned 126 caps (a Spanish record) before retiring from international competition after the 1998 World Cup.