Outright odds: 13/2
To win group: 8/11
To qualify: 1/5
Full squad: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), David De Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Raul Albiol (Napoli), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Xavi (Barcelona), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Manchester United), David Silva (Manchester City), Pedro (Barcelona), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), David Villa (Atletico Madrid), Fernando Torres (Chelsea).
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
World Cup record: Winners (2010), fourth (1950)
International football is remembered for great teams. Think Brazil in 1970 or 1982 (yes, even without winning), or maybe even their forwards of 12 years ago. France four years before. The Dutch of 74. Argentina in 1986. It is clear that we are within the midst of a great team now with a Spain side that has won it’s last three international tournaments.
The defending champions were underachievers on the world stage just a few years ago – infact, just 8 years ago – but since the arrival of a golden generation with victory in the 2008 European Championships Spain have proven near unbeatable on the international stage, winning the last World Cup and then retaining their title in fine style 2 years ago.
And what’s to stop them winning again this time? Much of that same side comes here and signs of decline have been few and far between. Xavi, Iniesta and Xabi Alonso are 34, 30 and 32 respectively and the first named of them has had questions aimed at his performance for Barcelona, having been benched for the crucial last two games of their title race, his performance for the national side hasn’t lost any of it’s lustre. Iniesta remains a modern great, and Xabi Alonso had possibly his best ever season at Real Madrid.
Sergio Busquets will probably lie deep in playmaking duties, while David Silva provides with and guile from the wide right, although on that score it was a worry not to see them bring either Jose Callejon, who has had a fine season in Serie A, or Jesus Navas, whose pace has been a fine outlet when teams have sat deep against their defence before.
Diego Costa, who had a fine season for Ateltico Madrid, scoring 27 league goals in 35 games, was badly injured at the end of the season but looks to have recovered, although it remains to be seen how he fits into the style of play that Barcelona and Real Madrid employ with Atletico taking a physical, counter attacking approach towards their play. Pedro had the second best season, and it would be a relief for Spain backers to see him taking to the field at No.9 although Cesc Fabregas could play in the role as he did during their 2012 triumph.
Spain’s real area of strength apart from the midfield, however, is their rock solid defence. While much of their incredible knockout record rests upon the fact that they have so much of the ball, it cannot hurt to have Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos behind Busquets. Ramos has been a liability in the past but provided performances of a great maturity in leading Real towards a Champions League, especially against Bayern Munich in the semi finals. Out wide, Jordi Alba will provide lighting pace when needed – possibly the only thing this side lacks – while Juanfran’s fantastic season at Atletico Madrid makes him worthy of a spot although Azpilcueta made a deep impression for Chelsea. It would be a surprise not to see Spain go very far in a big for an amazing fourth title on the bounce.