WORLD CUP FORECAST: Group B - Can Spain defend their title?
One of the biggest questions on the lips of all football supporters as the World Cup approaches will be: Can Spain win again?
La Furia Roja have been the dominant force in world football over the past six or so years, winning the 2008 European Championships in Switzerland and Austria, taking out the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and triumphing again in the continental tournament in Poland and Ukraine in 2012.
Leading into Brazil 2014, Spain are widely tipped to perform well again with their Barcelona and Real Madrid-centric team expected to get through the group stage with minimal fuss before taking on any contenders who dare get in the way.
Possession football, disciplined players and the know-how to succeed in a major tournament has Spain in with an enormous chance of making it two world championships on the trot for just the third time in the prestigious tournament's history.
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
Fixtures: Holland - June 13 (Salvador), Chile - June 18 (Rio de Janeiro), Australia - June 23 (Curitiba)
Past outings against group opponents: The last time Spain and Holland met was at the 2010 WC final in Johannesburg when Andres Iniesta scored the only goal of the game in injury-time. Prior to that, they had lost three and drawn one of four matches between 1983 and 2002 with the most recent prior to the final being a 1-0 defeat to the Oranje in a friendly in March '02. Overall, there have been nine meetings for four wins each and a draw.
Spain have had the wood over Chile in their history, winning eight of ten internationals, and never losing to their fellow Spanish speaking nation. Chile managed to force a 2-2 draw in September last year but that is the only time the two countries have shared the points. Spain won 2-1 in Pretoria in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup.
Spain and Australia have never met at senior level.
World Cup utopia: To win a second straight World Cup.
Doomsday scenario: Lose to Holland in their opener and fail to get past group stage.
Qualified by virtue of:Winning UEFA Group I.
Best result at a World Cup: WON (2010)
Spain's 'tiki-taka' style, which has been perfected under del Bosque, has become the go-to game plan around the world with plenty of club and national teams attempting to mimic the passing prose.
However, none have been able to pull it off like the Spaniards who consistently kick teams off the park by passing them out of the contest with ridiculously high possession and passing accuracy numbers. Expect the same again in Brazil as they look to become the first team since the Brazilians of 1958 and 1962 to salute twice in a row.
Sure, the average age of Spain's stars is increasing but there is also an established second tier of players such as David Silva, Alvaro Negredo, Pedro Rodriguez, Santi Cazorla and Jesus Navas which is an extremely esteemed lot of reserves to have at your disposal.
The usual suspects of Xavi, Iniesta, Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas and David Villa should all produce their customary contributions of substance while there is the unknown international quantity of Brazil-born Diego Costa who has netted over 35 goals for Atletico Madrid this season.
Throw in youngsters such as Costa's Atleti teammate Koke, Bayern Munich's Thiago Alcantara, Barcelona's Cristian Tello and Real Madrid's Isco and there is likely to be an agreeable mix of youthful exuberance and experienced proficiency in del Bosque's roster.
There are sure to be plenty out there rooting against Spain in order to see a changing of the guard at the top of international football but we feel they have the hunger and desire to write themselves into the history books of world football.
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