2018 FIFA World Cup Team Preview: Spain
World Cup at a Glance
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Spain will once again be making their presence known in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. They will be playing in Group B against the likes of Portugal, Morocco and Iran. They are currently ranked 6th in the FIFA World Rankings.
Spain will start their campaign to their second World Cup Championship on June 15, when they face Portugal in Sochi. They will face Iran in the middle group match on June 20 in Kazan before closing out the group matches on June 25 against Morocco in Kaliningrad.
Spain World Cup History
Spain won the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and will be looking to get back to the promised land in Russia. They have qualified for their 11th straight FIFA World Cup tournament. Overall, they’ve qualified and played in 14 previous FIFA World Cups and will be keen to secure their second World Cup trophy. They did not fare well in 2014 in the FIFA World Cup, as they made a early exit, getting eliminated during the group stage.
How They Got Here?
Spain punched their tickets for the 2018 FIFA World Cup by in Group G of the UEFA qualifying. They went 9-1-0 during qualifying with 9 wins and a single draw against Italy. They posted very strong numbers in qualifying, scoring 36 goals and only conceding 3 goals in their net. If the way they played in qualifying is any indication of how they will look in the FIFA World Cup, their opponents will have a tough time getting the advantage of Spain.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest strengths for Spain is the amazing coaching job that Julen Lopetegui has put together. He is undefeated in Spain and has put together 13 wins and 5 draws in 18 games as Spain’s top guy. Lopetegui plays a very determined style of soccer, with a lot of ball control, quick passing and clock management. You won’t see many turnovers on Spain because of the way they play but you will see plenty of quick ball distribution and plenty of shots on goal. Well, that's actually something very typical for the Spaniards over the past decade and we all know their specific style very well.
Another strength to talk about is this powerful offensive striking team that Spain possesses. They have a ton of talent on this team and they are very hard to maintain over 90 minutes on the field.
Their strength can also become their weakness. Coach Lopetegui has made it a habit of making wild and outlandish decisions throughout qualifying. For example, during their match with Italy, he completely changed his playing style and went with a out-and-out striker for the first time. It worked in qualifying but that is a risk that you will not want to take in the biggest stage in the world at the FIFA World Cup. Those risks may prove to be a weakness if he gets drastic in the months to come.
Update, 13 June 2018: Julen Lopetegui has been sacked as Spain coach. That happened only a day after it was officially announced that he had agreed to take over at Real Madrid after the World Cup. Decision was taken by the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RSFF). Couple of hours later, just two days before Spain's World Cup opener against Portugal, it was announced that former national team and Real Madrid defender Fernando Hierro will be in charge of “La Furia Roja” in Russia.
Players To Look Out For
David Silva has taken over as the top guy in Spain. He is the go-to guy in Spain and will continue to stride forward as the leader of the team. He is currently 4th on the all-time scoring list for Spain. Silva is a household name for Manchester City and has been on the Premier League level since 2010.
Sergio Ramos is the teams top defender and the player with the most experience on Spain. Ramos is the captain of Spain and will be ready to guide the defensive side of the field, as he does with Real Madrid. Ramos is a level above the rest when it comes to leadership and this unit will look to him and his experience to get them out of the Group Stage.
We must also follow the farewell of Andres Iniesta with international football, who may partner with David Silva, Isco and Sergio Busquets in midfield.
Meanwhile, Julen Lopetegui's decision to leave Alvaro Morata out of the group was a surprise, although it didn't happened for the first time. His last call up was in November 2017 for the two friendlies against Costa Rica and Russia. Thus either Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa, Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno or Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas will lead the Spanish attack at the 2018 World Cup. The naturalized Brazilian Diego Costa seems to be the favourite for the starting spot but we shouldn't underestimate the likes of Rodrigo and Iago Aspas who have enjoyed a decent season with their clubs in the Spanish La Liga.
Spain 2018 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: David de Gea, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pepe Reina
Defenders: Daniel Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola, Sergio Ramos (captain), Gerard Pique, Cesar Azpilicueta, Nacho Fernandez, Jordi Alba, Nacho Monreal
Midfielders: Thiago Alcantara, Saul Niguez, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Andres Iniesta, Isco, Marco Asensio, David Silva
Forwards: Rodrigo Moreno, Lucas Vazquez, Iago Aspas, Diego Costa
Spain Final Thoughts
We have Spain slated to finish in first place in the group stage. They are very tough and very talented on both sides of the ball. This team will be very aggressive off the strike and will play some of the best defense you will see in the FIFA World Cup. They are going to want to avenge their 2014 fumble that saw them eliminated from the group stage and make a statement that they are back and a team to contend with for the championship.