La Furia Roja or the Red Fury’s (for those like myself less au-fait with the Spanish language) dominance of World and European football may have been on the decline for a number of years since their 2012 European Championship title, but in the race to Russia, Spain are just edging nemesis Italy in the hunt for an automatic qualifying spot.
As it stands, Spain and Italy are locked on 16 points together in first and second, however, largely thanks to Spain’s 8-0 drubbing of Liechtenstein in the opening qualifier, Julien Lopetegui’s men hold a +4-goal advantage over their Italian rivals as the two prepare to meet on Spanish soil.
Whoever wins at the Santiago Bernabeu is likely to top group G and leave the defeated with a tricky second round play-off fixture to contend with.
When the two sides met in Turin last October, Vitolo gave the visitors a 1-0 lead before an 82nd minute penalty by Daniele De Rossi rescued a point for the grateful Italians.
A similar result will suit Spain but with home advantage, it would be seen as a waste not to push on for the victory.
Spain’s impressive performances in Group G have not gone unnoticed and this is reflected in the outright World Cup betting with Spain fifth favourites for the tournament at 17/2 and 7/20 to top their current qualifying group.
But can they actually win it?
Once passage to Russia has been assured, can Spain repeat their 2010 triumph? As expected, the side that claimed the nations one and only World Cup title is very different to the one that will kick off in Russia.
However, there are still a number of key players from seven years ago, that are expected to make the squad. Captain Sergio Ramos is all but assured his spot on the plane as is Gerard Pique.
The squad also have a host of exciting youngsters such as Real Madrid’s 21-year-old attacking midfielder Marco Asensio and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez.
The more experienced players such as Ramos and Pique will be able to guide the younger players through the early group stage matches but in order to claim a second World title, they will have to have an eye on tournament favourites Germany.
There has been a total of twenty World Cups and the Germans have finished third place or higher an astonishing 12 times claiming the ultimate prize four times.
Once again, the holders have been instilled as 5/1 favourites with the Brazilians second favourites at 6/1 but Spain will feel confident that they have the squad to compete once more.
During Spain’s last qualifying match against Macedonia, the average age of the squad was 26 which added a nice mix of experience and fresh legs to preceding’s.
The heady days of Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso may have now passed but there is plenty of reason to believe that once again, Spain can top the world and lift the 2018n FIFA world Cup in Russia.