The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Spain

Spain National Team

Spain

La Furia Roja

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Spain

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 9-1-0
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 8th
World Cup 2014 Finish – 1st Round Exit
Russia 2018 Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran)
Formation – 4-3-3
Strengths – Everything? Experience, Technical ability, Goalkeeping
Weaknesses – Aging midfield, CB concentration lapses
Major Threats – David Silva, Isco

The heartbreak of the 2014 World Cup failure still haunts this group, with many of the
same players still expected to play major roles this summer in Russia. That doesn’t
mean the goals are any less lofty this time around
Are you a fan of La Furia Roja or just really love that Spain Jersey? Remember to buy a jersey now before the tournament starts!

Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

32 teams qualify for the World
cup, but there’s a limited list of true challengers to win it all. Spain is one of those select few teams. Anything less than a semifinal appearance will be a complete failure for
them and even that may not be enough. Fans and players alike expect this group to win it all.

DEFENSE:

Spain sticks to the standard back four. Standing tall and talented in the center of defense will be Sergio Ramos. The captain is as sure of a thing as you can find in defense. With over 150 caps for his national team, he blends experience with top notch ability and an attitude which ingratiates him to his teammates and infuriates his opponents. Ramos’ excellent aerial skills make him effective not only in defense, but in attack as well, and he has a knack for clutch performances. His partner in defense is no slouch either. Gerard Pique caused a stir
when he said he may skip the World Cup in support of Catalonian independence, but has since said he’ll participate, but it will be his last appearance for Spain in international play. There may be no more talented CB pairing at the World Cup, as both players excel in every aspect of defensive play while providing additional attacking presence to go with it.
The fullbacks are likely to be Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal. Both players fit seamlessly
with the Spanish style of play. They’re able to add to the attack in the final third with
their passing ability, and absolute must with Spain’s possession oriented play. Both
are smart players with the speed and technique to stop dangerous plays early. Health permitting, this back four is going to be a tough nut to crack. There’s a familiarity as a
unit, with partnerships at both the club and international level making this a cohesive
group ready to accentuate one another’s strengths. The speed and lungs of the fullbacks means they can get up and down the flanks causing imbalances everywhere, and the mobility and aerial skills of the central defenders means they will clear out crosses when the wingbacks do get beaten. If you’re trying to find a weakness to exploit, good luck.

Then there’s David De Gea. The keeper was already among the best in the world before this season, and he’s in tremendous form. Some are saying his season at Manchester United is the best season a keeper has ever had. EVER HAD. The sublime shot stopper isn’t going to come flying off his line often, but he’s like an octopus in goal and beating him is an immense challenge.

MIDFIELD:

Functionally, Spain will trot out a 4-5-1/4-3-3 in Russia. What strategy that formation takes
will heavily depend on which five players Manager Julen Lopetegui chooses to play in the midfield. Spain is blessed with an incredible amount of depth in their midfield. There are probably eight or nine different guys that you could qualify as world class, and picking the correct combination here will be one of the first challenges Spain will face this summer.

We know a couple things for certain. Andres Iniesta will feature heavily in the squad. Despite his advanced age of 34, he’s still pulling the strings from the midfield. This World Cup will likely be the last top level soccer Iniesta plays, as he departs Barcelona this summer for a new challenge. Make no mistake though, he may be leaving the highest level of club soccer, but he can still do it on his day. The only concerns might be in such a condensed tournament like the World cup, will he be able to stay fresh enough to lead this team to the final? David Silva is also a lock to play a big role, and represents one of the biggest threats to opposing defenses Spain has. He’s coming of a season with Manchester City where he garnered Player of the Year consideration, and his playmaking ability from the number 10 role should create easy opportunities for the rest of the team. Expect his dribble-filled, technically sound game to help unlock the packed defenses Spain should see in group play. I would also expect to see Isco starting as well. The attacking midfielder will likely play in a wider role for the ‘Selection’, utilizing his playmaking ability further up the pitch. His form with Spain has been incredible, as evidenced by his hat trick in a rout of Argentina earlier this year. It cannot be overstated; this Spain midfield has some of the world’s best playmakers. How they
work together on the pitch should be fascinating to watch.

This is where things get a little more questionable. Sergio Busquets is probably going to be deployed as the deepest lying playmaker, and as a sole defensive midfielder. Historically he’s been great at this, and is equally adept at blowing up opposing attacks as he is starting his own teams. However, Busquets has quietly slowed down this year, leading some to question whether or not he’s going to be capable of shielding the back line by his self. Barcelona has moved his midfield partners further back to help cover for some of his defensive drop off, and for those who look to his advanced stats, it’s worth noting his progressive passing numbers have dropped off as well. Some of this might be due to the scheme change his club team has gone through this past year, but any way you slice it, he’s getting older, and doesn’t quite cover the same amount of ground he used to. That’s what makes the final midfield selection so
interesting. Does Spain utilize player like Thiago in a double pivot to help alleviate some of the pressure on him? Or do they add another attack minded player like Marco Ascensio, or versatile playmaker like Koke, and let Busquets reprise his screening and passing role?
Busquets fitness and form over the course of the tournament will dictate these decisions. Lopetegui will probably start with Busquets as a single pivot and go from there. Expect to see him joined by Iniesta and Koke as central midfielders, with Isco and David Silva setting up shop further up field. Ascensio, Thiago, Saul make up a very capable group of subs.

Isco

Francisco ‘Isco’ Alarcon

STRIKERS:

Perhaps the biggest question for Spain is who will line up as the lone striker. The two
most likely candidates each have their warts, but this is a decision Lopetegui
absolutely has to get right in order to have Spain reach their potential in this World
Cup. Its going to come down to Iago Aspas or Diego Costa. Iago Aspas may not have got a fair shake at Liverpool but since moving back to Spain, he has shown himself to be an absolute gem of a player. His movement is one of the best you’ll find from a striker, his vision and positional awareness are remarkable and ironically would fit like a glove with what the Reds do now, he finishes goals with aplomb, he has a nose for goals (finishing and having a nose are two different qualities), and most importantly, he is a consummate team player.

Then there’s Diego Costa. He spent the first half of the year hanging out in Spain,
Brazil, and pretty much anywhere that wasn’t Chelsea. His transfer to his former home of Atletico Madrid brought him a renewed chance to see the pitch, and he’s now returned to his ways as one of the most physical presences in Europe. There are physical strikers, and then there’s Diego Costa. He can outmuscle even the strongest of centerbacks, and he is a master of soccer’s dark arts. His presence has freed his Atletico teammates for goals, and you’d expect to see him do the same for Spain. He’s a ruthless finisher in front of goal as well as a tasteful underrated passer.

Both players offer something a little different then there’s the utility forward Lucas Vazquez as well as Rodrigo from Valencia to add to the strike force.

GAME by GAME (v Portugal, v Iran, v Morocco)

*Keys to Portugal game: Can Ronaldo be stopped? No one ever really stops Ronaldo but can Spain at least contain him without losing focus on Portugal’s other attackers
like Bernardo Silva? Spain should vastly outclass Portgual in the midfield, but will the
strikers be able to finish the chances they are sure to create?
Prediction: Close win for Spain, and a decent chance of a draw if they let Ronaldo get loose.

*Keys to Iran game: Iran has never made it out of the group stages at a World Cup, but can Sardar Azmoun, the “Iranian Messi” breakthrough to make this a match? Facing a
defense that is almost certainly going to the heavily packed in tight and stifling, will Spain be able to break through? (Yes, most likely yes)
Prediction:Straightforward Spain win

*Keys to Morocco game: Some say this is Morocco’s golden generation, but will a defense led by Medhi Benatia be able to hold out against the likely Spanish onslaught? They’ll play with most of the ball, but can Spain avoid being stung on the counter?
Prediction: Straightforward Spain win

Here’s the Spain Roster for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): David De Gea, Pepe Reina, Kepa Arrizabalaga

DEFENDERS (8): Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Dani Carvajal, Jordi Alba,
Cesar Azpilicueta, Nacho, Alvaro Odriozola, Nacho Monreal

MIDFIELDERS (10): Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, David Silva, Isco, Koke, Saul, Thiago,

FORWARDS (5): Diego Costa, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Iago Aspas, Rodrigo

Piece by James Wilkinson, frequent Center Circle writer, an avid fan of Tottenham Hotspur and the USMNT.

 

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About the author: James Wilkinson

 

An upstart soccer fan, I've been rabidly following Tottenham ever since Harry Kane took the world by storm. What I lack in soccer knowledge I make up for in pure passion for sports. I went to undergrad at TCU (Go Frogs!) and developed a bit of a reputation for taking intramural sports a bit too seriously. But lets be honest, if the game has a ball I'll play it anytime, anywhere. Currently working on an MBA at Mizzou, join me here at SoccerPro as I learn how to write about sports, and laugh at me if I fail miserably!

Website: https://www.soccerpro.com

 

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