With the 2014 finals just around the corner, Goal is running a series looking at every major nation and arguing the case for each winning the cup. Here we assess SpainCOMMENT
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
History suggests Spain won't win the World Cup. After all, no team has retained the title since Brazil in 1962 and when the tournament has been played in South America, a side from that continent has always won it.
The hot and humid conditions won't suit Spain either - as proved in last year's Confederations Cup, when Vicente del Bosque's side struggled against Nigeria and were badly beaten by Brazil in the final at the Maracana.
Nevertheless, La Roja remain the world's strongest side at international level and if they can cope with the climate in June and July, there's no reason why the defending champions can't add a second star to their shirt in Rio.
Spain have been here before. In the 2009 Confederations Cup, Del Bosque's men lost to USA in the semi-finals and that shock defeat raised serious question marks over their ability to win the World Cup a year later. But fast-forward 12 months and Iker Casillas lifted football's most prestigious trophy at Soccer City in 2010.
"Brazil are a top team, but if we play them again it will be a completely different game to last year," Cesc Fabregas said recently. And after last year's loss, Del Bosque explained: "Sometimes it's convenient to lose. You learn lessons from a defeat and we will learn from this."
In terms of talent, Spain's squad is still brimming with quality. Despite his mistake in the Champions League final, Casillas remains one of the world's greatest goalkeepers, while Sergio Ramos is playing the best football of his career at Real Madrid and has developed a fine partnership with Barcelona's Gerard Pique at international level.
In the full-back positions, meanwhile, Cesar Azpilicueta emerged at Chelsea by displacing Ashley Cole, while Juanfran has impressed for Atletico. Those two will compete for the right-back role, with Barca's Jordi Alba set to start on the left.
The midfield features a wealth of ability, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets joined by club colleague Fabregas and Madrid's Xabi Alonso back after missing the Confederations Cup last summer. Atletico's Koke and Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez provide interesting alternatives, too, while Del Bosque can call on Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla as well. It's comfortably the best midfield in the competition and that's the area where most matches are won at this level.
In attack, meanwhile, Spain are boosted by the inclusion of Diego Costa, who snubbed Brazil in order to represent La Roja this summer. The Atletico striker should solve what had become something of a problem position for Del Bosque's side, although he is unlikely to start the competition as he recovers from a hamstring injury which forced him off after just nine minutes in the Champions League final last week. His now former club colleague David Villa, Pedro and Fernando Torres will provide quality back-up, with the Chelsea striker's pace and work-rate valued by Del Bosque.
Spain's golden generation have already claimed back-to-back European championships in 2008 and 2012, plus the World Cup in 2010. They still have the best team, they've been there and won it and this time, the pressure will be very much on Brazil as host nation, with no World Cup win since 2002 and the memory of 1950 and the 'Maracanazo' hanging over them.
"I hope and desire that Spain win the World Cup," said veteran defender Carlos Marchena, who was part of the squad in 2010. "They have the players, they have everything to be able to do it." And he added: "Brazil playing at home, with things as they are, they will have so much pressure and that could count against them."
Spain may not be favourites for glory in 2014 and they will have to change history to triumph this time around, but this team has been breaking new ground for the last six years now. So can they make it four major tournament successes in a row? Don't bet against it.
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