Spain - Team Profile
Once the perennial under-achievers, all that changed at Euro 2008 and they haven't looked back since
Vicente del Bosque talks with his Spanish players during a training session at Las Rozas Sports City in Madrid, Spain, last month. Photograph: Alberto Martin / EPA
Manager: Vicente Del Bosque
Best finish: Winners (2010)
World Cup record: P 59, W 29, D 12, L 18
Once the perennial under-achievers, all that changed at Euro 2008 when a golden generation claimed what seemed to be their birthright before backing it up in South Africa with a World Cup win and an endorsement of their beautiful game. They have nothing to prove in Brazil but the fact their best result (fourth) prior to 2010 came in Brazil in 1950 may be comforting to know.
It’s anyone’s guess as to the exact formation Del Bosque may employ in each game. But the modus operandi is to hound the opposition, get the ball, hang on to it for a while if you want – no rush, like– and then score. It’s proved a pretty effective game plan over the last six years, so no amount of obituaries being written for their fabled tiki-taka will change that now.
All Star – Diego Costa
Deserves a mention for the bite he adds to the Spain side. The Brazilian-born Atletico Madrid striker is a dog of war. He hounds opponents, whispers insults in their ear, pinches and lobs gob in their direction. It’s not the most civilised approach, but he also scores truckloads of goals. Hamstring injury a genuine concern, however. County Colours – Kilkenny
Sticky-taka, brilliant but boring at the same time. “Wow-zzzzzzzzzzz-ers”
Pundit’s corner – Eamonn Dunphy: “I’m the Spanish expert, baby, and these guys are the real deal, everyone else is an imposter.”
They come to win and who’s to say they won’t? Topping Group B ahead of Netherlands, Chile and Australia is a must because nobody wants to meet Brazil in the second round, not even this lot. After that, they have every chance but we reckon Argentina might ambush them in the semi-finals.
Goalkeepers: 1 Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), 12 David De Gea (Manchester United, Eng), 23 Pepe Reina (Liverpool, Eng on loan to Napol, Ita),
Defenders: 2 Raul Albiol (Napoli, Ita), 3 Gerard Pique (Barcelona), 5 Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), 15 Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), 18 Jordi Alba (Barcelona), 22 Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea, Eng)
Midfielders: 4 Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich, Ger), 6 Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), 8 Xavi (Barcelona), 10 Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), 14 Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), 16 Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), 17 Koke (Atletico Madrid), 20 Santi Cazorla (Arsenal, Eng), 21 David Silva (Manchester City, Eng).
Forwards: 7 David Villa (Atletico Madrid), 9 Fernando Torres (Chelsea, Eng), 11 Pedro (Barcelona), 13 Juan Mata (Manchester United, Eng), 19 Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid),
SPAIN (v Netherlands): 1 Iker Casillas (yc); 22 Cesar Azpilicueta, 3 Gerard Pique, 15 Sergio Ramos, 18 Jordi Alba; 16 Sergio Busquets, 14 Xabi Alonso (11 Pedro, 62 mins); 8 Xavi, 6 Andres Iniesta; 21 David Silva (10 Cesc Fabregas, 78 mins); 19 Diego Costa (9 Fernando Torres, 62 mins).
SPAIN (v Chile): 1 Iker Casillas; 22 Cesar Azpilicueta, 4 Javi Martinez, 15 Sergio Ramos, 18 Jordi Alba; 16 Sergio Busquets, 14 Xabi Alonso (yc) (17 Koke, half-time); 21 David Silva, 6 Andres Iniesta, 11 Pedro (20 Santi Cazorla, 76 mins); 19 Diego Costa (9 Fernando Torres, 64 mins).
SPAIN (v Australia): 23 Pepe Reina; 5 Juanfran, 2 Raul Albiol, 15 Sergio Ramos (yc), 18 Jordi Alba; 14 Xabi Alonso (21 David Silva, 83 mins), 17 Koke; 20 Santi Cazorla (10 Cesc Fabregas, 68 mins), 6 Andres Iniesta, 7 David Villa (13 Juan Mata, 56 mins); 9 Fernando Torres.