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World Cup 2010: Spain Profile

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque.

Confederation: UEFA
FIFA Ranking (Apr 10): 2
Previous Appearances: 12 1934 (5th), 1950 (4th), 1962 (1st round), 1966 (1st round), 1978 (1st round), 1982 (2nd round), 1986 (1/8 round), 1990 (1/16 round), 1994 (1/8 round), 1998 (1st round), 2002 (1/8 round), 2006 (1/16 round)

Background
While Spain are regulars at the World Cup, all too often they have underachieved. Their best finish of all-time was fourth at the 1950 tournament, which Uruguay won at the Maracana. But in general La Roja's World Cup record is one of sorrow, comprising a strong squad on paper but a weak team on the pitch. Particularly dreadful was the first round exit at France '98. But after winning Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and having an absurdly strong midfield and attack ready to fire on all cylinders, Spain have finally proved themselves. They are the only country to have topped the FIFA World Rankings without winning the World Cup.

How They Qualified
Spain were involved in Group 5 with Bosnia, Turkey, Belgium, Estonia and Armenia. Del Bosque's boys had a WCQ to remember: 10 matches, 10 games won, 28 goals and only 5 conceded. Grace, style, and relentless firepower saw Spain recover nicely from their 2009 Confederations Cup loss to the USA, and they are truly back on form.

Strengths

Forget the statistics: let's talk about an idea of how they Spain know how they want to play. It's Barcelona-style football: possession play and an eye firmly on attack. Luis Aragones, the victorious 2008 coach, built a team around Barca pair Andres Iniesta and Xavi. With David Villa, David Silva, and Fernando Torres to aim for, this team does not want either for creativity or firepower. When Spain play, they take no prisoners.

Weaknesses

As Fabio Capello said, it's easier to beat Spain than Brazil at the World Cup. He might well be right. But why? Because Spain have two traditional weaknesses: shakiness when faced with the through ball and set-pieces, and an aversion to playing well when faced with physical, sometimes 'dirty' teams. Recently, in fact, an unspectacular Argentina side gave Spain problems with niggling fouls and plenty of corners. Teams such as Brazil, Italy, England or Argentina could find this out, especially if Spain can't get an early, commanding lead. In short, Spain don't know how not to lose games they can't win. Frustrate them, and they will suffer.

The Coach

Vicente Del Bosque replaced Turkey-bound Aragones right after Euro 2008. Hhe proved to be a successfull choice, specially in two subjects. He showed experience to deal with a squad full of stars, controlling the euphoria, but also avoided wholesale changes. He's his own man, but he knows when to let things continue as they are. His humility serves him well, and his players retain his faith in them.

Star Men
Gerard Piqué (Barcelona)


His great form for Pep Guardiola's magic team sees him now an undisputed member of the first team line-up for Spain. Tall, fast, and with a great header, he's fast becoming a top centre-back - a position with which Spain have struggled of alte.

Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)


The brain of Barcelona is utterly key to Spain, as well as his club. With one or two touches he can change a game. If he plays, the team works; if not, they have Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas...

Fernando Torres (Liverpool)



He's a killer, but not only that. A gifted counter-attacker, he offers physicality as well as talent. David Villa is the genuine article, but without Torres he'll find much less space and have much less strength by his side. A forward still underrated by some.

 


Best Footballing Moment

Without a doubt, that Euro 2008 win. Spain finally shook off that underachiever's tag and did the country proud. This was no fluke win, either: it was borne of teamwork and talent, the kind which only appears once in a generation.

Off The Pitch
Famous for: Manolo, El del Bombo! He is the fan who follows the entire team everywhere they go.

Most likely to: Be easily recognisable. Spanish fans have their body, mind and soul split by two colours. If you don't see a red shirt, scarf, cap or even a face bisected by a yellow big stripe, well, it shouldn't be a La Roja supporter.

World Cup Objective
Spain arrive as a favourite, as usual, but this time it's serious. With great players, a unified, friendly group of players, and the hunger to succeed, they are perhaps the first set of Spaniards to truly earn their tag of winners-in-waiting. But as Maradona said, "A favourite has never won the World Cup..."