The 2014 World Cup in Brasil is only 15 days away. Before the games begin, I will attempt to break down each team and give you a comprehensive look at the Road to the Cup for all, in Brasil.
The top 32 teams have until June 2nd to finalize their 23-man rosters, but in the meantime, teams will compete in international friendlies from now until the World Cup begins on June 12th. This will allow managers the opportunity to evaluate talent before deciding their final 23-man rosters.
Defending 2010 World Cup champions Spain are currently ranked first overall in the world, according to FIFA.com. Only Italy and Brasil have won the tournament in back-to-back competitions. Can Spain join them as the third?
I begin the journey through the 32 teams with defending champions – Spain.
I believe Spain has a chance to play in the Cup Final again, however, I don’t see Spain lifting the trophy this year. A strong Spanish squad has dominated the world of soccer for the past 6 years with it’s now infamous ‘tiki-taka’ style of play; dominating possession time, working the ball in the attacking half and quickly counter-attacking. Teams like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have proven the ‘tiki-taka’ style is beatable with speed and quick counter-attacks into space. Spain’s defense will be key to surviving and ultimately moving through the stages.
Head coach Vincente del Bosque heads up the Spanish National Team. Vincente is a well traveled coach/player. A former Real Madrid defensive midfielder and head coach of several successful Real Madrid teams, Vincente has been credited with reviving the Spanish international soccer program.
Since taking over in 2008 for Luis Aragones, Vicente has won the 2010 FIFA World Cup as well as the 2012 UEFA Euro Championship. Bosque is the only coach to have won the Champions League, European Championship and the World Cup in the soccer world. Vincente del Bosque has delayed revealing his 23-man roster in hopes that Atletico striker, Diego Costa, will recover from his re-injured hamstring he suffered during the Champions League Final against cross town rival Real Madrid. Bosque also made the move to ensure the Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid players have a chance to recover and join the team trainings before he makes his final roster selections on June 2.
Spain is placed in Group B, along with the Netherlands, Chile and Australia. Both the Netherlands (15th in world) and Chile (13th) will pose the biggest threat for Spain in group play. Australia (59th) will be the odd man out early. Spain lines up against the Netherlands in their opening match on Friday, June 13th at 12pm PST. It will be a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, although the Netherlands side isn’t as strong as it was then. Spain will then play Chile on Wednesday, June 18th at 12pm and Australia on Monday, June 23rd at 9am PST.
While Spain’s final roster hasn’t been announced, there will be some new names fighting for a spot amist the crop of 30 hopeful players. There will also be a few notable names that are sure to make the trip to Brazil. Let’s take a look at some of the players. (Names is parenthesis denote club team)
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) will get the start in the box. Casillas captains Real Madrid and the Spanish national team. Casillas is currently the most capped player of the Spanish national team. Pepe Reina (Napoli) and David De Gea (Manchester United) are likely to be the backups.
Sergio Ramos & Dani Carvajal are both starting defenders for Real Madrid. Both players played every minute in the 2014 Champions League Final. Bosque is giving both players an opportunity to rest, but is expecting them out for national team training before June 2. Ramos will likely get the start at the center-back position, while Carvajal will be challenged by up and coming Chelsea right-back, Cesar Azplicueta.
Gerard Pique & Jordi Alba are both starting defenders for Barcelona. Both were part of Spain’s 2012 European Championship team. Alba provides speed and explosive playmaking ability from the left-back position. Pique was part of the 2010 World Cup champion team and a consistent player at the center-back position. Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), and Raul Albiol (Napoli) will look to fill out the depth chart.
Spain is deep in the midfield. Arguably the best midfield in the world, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas are all Barcelona midfielders and all are expected to make the final 23-man roster. Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), and Juan Mata (Manchester United) are also expected to make the roster along with Jesus Navas and David Silva, both Manchester City players.
Diego Costa and David Villa are starting forwards for Atletico Madrid. Despite Costa’s current hamstring injury, head coach Bosque is holding out hope that Costa will be available before June 2. David Villa’s performance has dropped off in recent years, however, he provides the most experience at the forward position. Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona) and Fernando Torres (Chelsea) are both expected to make the trip to Brazil while Alvaro Negredo (Manchester City) and Fernando Llorente (Juventus) will look to fill out the roster.