Thursday, April 24, 2014

World Cup Predicted Lineups: Spain

Next in my series of predicted lineups for the World Cup is the defending champions, Spain. La Furia Roja come in as the only team ever to win three consecutive major tournaments. They did so in winning the 2008 and 2012 UEFA European Championships and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. They will be looking to extend that to four tournaments and join Italy and Brazil as the only nations to win consecutive World Cups. They are considered one of the favorites, and I believe they will certainly prove why they are a top team in this edition.

Here is a look at Spain's road to the World Cup via ESPN FC.

Spain should lineup in their traditional 4-3-3 formation, and will look to use their tiki-taka, quick passing style to dominate games.

GK: Iker Casillas (c) - Real Madrid C.F.

  • Saint Iker, as he is known in spain, will most likely be the number 1 for Spain, and will also captain the squad. Having played sparingly for Real Madrid this season, with Carlo Ancelotti following José Mourinho's selection of Diego López as the regular La Liga keeper, Casillas remains Vicente Del Bosque's top choice in goal. Casillas has shined when he has played, mainly in Real Madrid's Copa Del Rey triumph and in their active Champions League run.

RB: Juanfran - Atlético Madrid
  • In what is one of Spain's weakest positions, Juanfran has excelled for this year's domestic and Champions League surprise package, the Mattress Makers of Atlético Madrid. He is an integral part of one of the best back four's in the world, and looks to cement his spot in Spain's starting XI. His only real competition comes from Chelsea's César Azpilicueta who has had a great season in his own right, but has mainly featured at left back.
CB: Gerard Piqué - F.C. Barcelona
  • The easy choice for both club and country, Piqué has suffered from a couple of injuries this year, but should be fit for the World Cup. If he is healthy, he should be a lock at centre back with his terrific tackling ability and ability to play the ball from the back.
CB: Sergio Ramos - Real Madrid C.F.
  • Another easy choice, Ramos has performed well enough to earn himself a spot in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI. He is a hard-nosed central defender, who is very strong in the air and dispossessing opponents. Sergio Ramos is, however, often at risk of getting sent off. His 19 La Liga red cards is an all-time record, and his combative style could lead to Spain playing with 10 sometimes.
LB: Jordi Alba - F.C. Barcelona
  • In what is probably Spain's answer to Dani Alves, Jordi Alba is a lightning quick fullback who loves to push forward and join the attack. He does also do his job in defense, and can frustrate opposing attackers with his quickness. 
CDM: Sergio Busquets - F.C. Barcelona
  • Probably one of the most underrated players in the world, Sergio Busquets has had another very good, yet quiet season. He is an integral part of Barcelona's dominant midfield and is essential in maintaining possession. He makes few mistakes, barring his performances at centre back this season.
CM: Xavi - F.C. Barcelona
  • One of the greatest playmakers of his generation, and maybe all-time, El Maestro is excellent at maintaining possession, and equally adept at finding the cutting pass to tear apart defenses. He has vision like no one else, and will most likely be responsible for many of Spain's set-piece responsibilities.
CM: Cesc Fàbregas - F.C. Barcelona
  • Another member of the strong Barcelona contingent, Cesc Fàbregas is only 26, yet still has loads of experience with the national team. Fàbregas has had a strong season for the Blaugrana, and currently sits second in La Liga in assists, one behind Atlético Madrid's Koke.
RW: Pedro - F.C. Barcelona
  • A winger with terrific acceleration and dribbling ability, Pedro is an omnipresent goal threat. He is capable of playing almost anywhere along the front line, but is probably most comfortable on the right wing. Extremely ambidextrous, Pedrito is capable of cutting in on either foot and having a shot at goal.
ST: Diego Costa - Atlético Madrid
  • Second in the race for the Pichichi, awarded to La Liga's top scorer, Diego Costa refused a call up to the Brazilian National Team to play for Spain. He is something Spain has been lacking recently, a true number 9. Costa is a strong force who can bring some directness to Spain's normally passive attacking style. He can head the ball, and hold up play from the front. He did not impress in his debut for La Roja, but I believe he will be able to develop the chemistry needed to become a regular in Spain's XI.

LW: Andrés Iniesta - F.C. Barcelona
  • For me, La Illusionista is the best midfielder in the game today. He is equally adept at playing on the wing due his ability to dribble past defenders with ease, and his incredible vision. He is a spectacular playmaker, but can also get himself on the score sheet. His goal in the 2010 Final, which you can see below, will go down in footballing history.

  • There are a number of players currently on the fringes of a spot in the squad, and they will surely be awaiting a phone call from Del Bosque.
    • Fernando Llorente: The Lion King has had a very good season with Juventus, and may have earned his first call-up since 2013. He is a very big striker, that is dominant in the air. I do not believe he will make the squad due to the lack of a need for many strikers. 
    • Fernando Torres: El Niño has had a slightly better season this year for Chelsea, but I do not believe he has done enough to earn a call-up for the World Cup.
    • Juan Mata: Mata has played very well since his record move from Chelsea to Manchester United, and does have some experience in representing Spain. He is best in a central attacking midfield role, however he can also play on the right wing. I do not believe he will be called up since Spain have no shortage of talented midfielders, and that spot may be used to provide some defensive cover.
    • David Villa: Last but not least, we have Spain's all-time leading scorer. Villa was not selected for Spain's friendly against Italy in March, and his for La Roja may be coming to a close. I have him making the cut into the final 23-man roster, partly due to his versatility, as he can play as a striker or on the left wing.

Who do you think will be starting for Spain come June? Do you think Spain have a chance to defend their title? Leave a comment with your opinion, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter.

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