Spain too good to ignore for World Cup glory in Brazil
At Euro 2012 Spain were second favourites for the title behind a star-studded and youthful Germany team but went on to lift a third consecutive international honour despite reserving their best football for the final.
It was a sign of how far La Roja had come in six years under the late Luis Aragones and Del Bosque, with both managers instilling the squad with the kind of winning mentality that means it would be foolish to ignore them as 6/1 shots for the World Cup.
Prior to their Euro 2008 success, Spain’s national team had mirrored England’s – albeit without enjoying the same one-off success the Three Lions had in 1966.
At France ’98, a team featuring Fernando Hierro and Raul failed to make it out of the group stages of the World Cup, while in 2002 their seemingly simple route to the final was blocked by South Korea.
In 2006, it was the same story with Spain failing to hold on to an early 1-0 lead over France in the second round.
But things have changed since then, in 2008 they overcame Italy, Russia and Germany to claim a well deserved European Championship, while in 2010 the early setback of a loss to Switzerland was overcome with wins against Chile and Honduras before victories over Portugal, Paraguay and Germany.
Even at the last Euros, the Spanish had enough in their locker to beat the big boys – Italy, France and Portugal were duly dispatched – and it would be dangerous to think they aren’t capable of doing the same in Brazil.
After all, much of the nucleus of those title winning teams remains in place – Casillas, Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro and David Villa to name but a few.
They’ve also been strengthened by the emergence of new stars in key positions such as Jordi Alba, Javi Martinez, Thiago Alcantara and the Manchester City duo of Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo.
A tough opener against Holland could set the tone for what is to come but even if they lose, if there is one team that knows how to win when it really matters it is Spain.
In qualification, they faced a France team that was ahead of them in the group, knowing they had to win to ensure they finished top. La Roja duly delivered a 1-0 victory.
Brazil may have won the Confederations Cup, but Spain could yet spoil the Samba Boys’ party this summer.
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