As the FIFA World cup 2014 inches closer, let’s take a look at whether defending champions Spain have the ammunition to rule the footballing world yet again as they did in scintillating fashion 4 years ago.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past half a decade or so, every football fan worth his salt would know that the Spanish national side have adopted a free-flowing, one touch footballing philosophy (Tiki-Taka as it’s informally known) from Barcelona and have added multiple variations to it. Apart from a Blip in last summer’s Confederations Cup Final against Brazil and the brilliance of Neymar, it has almost worked flawlessly. When in full flow it’s like an astonishingly composed orchestra, although some may disagree on this. Despite vital members of the squad being in their early or mid-thirties, La Furia Roja (“The Red Fury”), as they are fondly called, still have the personnel to repeat this magic.
In Iker Casillas they have one of best shot-stoppers around but it’s still a shame that Victor Valdes won’t travel to Brazil as his trust back-up. Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos form a rock solid centre-back pairing which could prove very hard to breach next month. Jordi Alba showed the world what an excellent player he is when he burst on the scene in Euro’12 with those bombarding runs forward and if there is any weak link in the Spanish defense it is definitely their right back position. The struggles of Alvaro Arbeloa against the likes of Neymar are well documented, although Juanfran of Atletico is quickly making a case for himself to be given a permanent role at an international level.
Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso are two of the best when it comes to holding the midfield and keeping play ticking over. Of late, Vicente Del Bosque seems to be favoring the double-pivot approach of two holding midfielders instead of one which offers much more balance to the side.
Xavi and Iniesta might just go down as the best central midfield duo ever to grace the sport. Whilst age might just be catching up with Xavi Hernandez, the human metronome still has a lot left in the tank. He’s still the best when it comes to retaining possession and dictating tempo of the match. While Xavi offers solidarity and calmness, his partner in crime Andres Iniesta offers creativity and the ability to unlock stubborn defenses. The way he glides past multiple players is a pure joy to watch. There is an abundance of talent in Spanish national side for attacking midfielders also; David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, Thiago Alacantra, Koke and Isco are all more than capable of playing the role.
The larger part of the criticism against Spain is that, for all their brilliance they don’t score many goals. That might just change with the addition of Diego Costa into their ranks. There will be David Villa, the all-time leading scorer for Spain who will be rejuvenated to perform one last time at the biggest stage of them all. Spain does have world class wingers like Pedro Rodriguez who can play both sides of the pitch as well as Jesus Navas who has sheer pace and ability to stretch the opposing defense as we’ve seen at the Etihad this season. These two. have been largely used as impact subs however, so this again will depend on which formation and tactics Del Bosque decides to deploy.
For the likes of the old guard of Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso who have started the golden era in Spanish Football, this may just be the last world cup of their careers and that will definitely give them that extra push, that extra spark to shine brightest among the stars that will descend on Brazil come June 2014.