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Confederations Cup Preview: Spain

Spain, despite being 'only' champions of Europe, are viewed by some as the greatest team in the world-elect. But a certain Brazilian outfit will have something to say about that, and thus Vicente del Bosque's Furia Roja face high expectations and top challenges.

That said, Spain have a relatively sedate group stage to contend with, South Africa, Iraq, and New Zealand providing the opposition. Not until the knock-out stages will the likes of Italy and Brazil (presumably) make themselves known as opposition.

Spain's season ends shortly before this tournament begins, meaning that there is scope to bring a full-strength line-up to South Africa in order to keep this young team growing ahead of next year's World Cup.

How they got here: 2008 European Championship winners

Spain lifted just their second major trophy in history last summer with a barnstorming victory at Euro 2008. A clean sweep in the group stages was followed by a penalty shoot-out win over Italy. Then came a semi-final thrashing of Russia by three goals to nil. Even bereft of the injured David Villa, Spain went on to record a 1-0 victory over Germany in the final, Liverpool striker Fernando Torres doing the damage with a first-half strike.

Coach: Vicente Del Bosque

The ex-Real Madrid boss took over after Luis Aragones led La Furia Roja to that historic victory at Euro 2008. Since assuming the hotseat, Del Bosque has a 100 per cent record, with results ranging from competitive wins over Belgium in the World Cup qualifiers to successive friendly victories over Chile and England.

The Team

The vast bulk of the Spain squad plies its trade domestically, starting with captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Probably the top shot stopper on form for most of 2008, the Real Madrid legend-in-the-making has endured a difficult spell over the last few months but still remains one of the most prominent names in football between the sticks.

In defence there is a Madrid influence, too, in the form of roving right-back Sergio Ramos, while Villarreal's dependable Joan Capdevila shores up the left. The centre can be changed as the situation demands, but Carles Puyol of Barcelona is the key man in the middle, while Raul Albiol of Valencia is seen as his potential international heir.

Midfield offers no end of possibilities. When seeking width, Santi Cazorla of Villarreal and Liverpool's Albert Riera are both staking international claims, but the ability to drift inside and dazzle defences offered by, say, Valencia's David Silva cannot be overestimated. Andres Iniesta and Xavi, the Barcelona pair, are two integral members of the team, while Marcos Senna of Villarreal is in the twilight of his career but still a major defensive influence. The Premier League contingent is headed up by Liverpool's Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal, both of whom are serious contenders for an automatic start.

Then there's the forward line. David Villa of Valencia leads the way, closely followed by Fernando Torres of Liverpool, in what is a youthful but devilishly effective forward line. Off the bench there are the likes of Dani Guiza, who plays for Fenerbahce, and the recently-capped Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao. Barcelona's Bojan Krkic, aged just 18, has a point to prove, too.

Rising Star: Cesc Fabregas

It feels absolutely absurd to still call him a rising star, but Cesc Fabregas remains a mere 21 years of age. Having spent most of this season injured, he could make a spirited comeback in summer. Another young gun worthy of note is Bojan Krkic, the 18-year-old Barcelona striker who last year made his international debut.

Confederations Cup History



Spain are joint-favourites for a reason. La Furia Roja are set to advance from the group stage without too much difficulty, and they will feel that the real test will only begin when they meet the likes of Italy and Brazil. At their peak they will feel that they can win either of those clashes, but the old tale of Spanish inconsistency could yet cost them. On current form, though, Spain are a fair bet to go all the way to the podium.

Ewan Macdonald,