Having secured the top spot in the qualifiers with two rounds to spare, Spain has the talent and depth to go all the way in South Africa. La Furia Roja has actually improved since winning the 2008 European championship.
Team: La Furia Roja
Colors: Red and Gold
The ’08 UEFA champs have good reason to believe they can repeat their success of two summers ago and collect another trophy. La Furia Roja’s road to the World Cup was easy, but the team must still be feeling the sting of losing to the U.S. in the semi-finals of the 2009 Confederations Cup, also held in South Africa.
Spain’s unique 4-1-2-1-2 formation allows the team to set up small passing triangles, out-maneuver defenders and create open opportunities for their deadly striking forwards. Their superior depth should put them among the final four vying for the Cup. The Spaniards will not be satisfied with a second place showing.
Key Players: Carles Puyol, Xavi and Fernando Torres
La Furia Roja is so loaded with talent, it’s hard to identify a key player. Everyone is a superstar. Better yet, they play well together, not allowing their egos to get in the way.
One small matter of concern is the D. Captain Puyol has aged a bit since his first World Cup appearance in ’02, but he can still run up and down the field better than most players 10 years his junior. He’ll have to control the defense for his team to make a deep run into knockout rounds.
Xavi is a midfielder whom opposing teams will try to take out. He’s always around the ball and good at setting up open attackers. The maestro of the midfield orchestrates a beautiful style of play with crisp one-two touches and long crosses.
Fernando Torres (El Nino, a.k.a. “The Kid”), arguably the best striker in the world when he’s healthy, hasn’t been 100 percent since ’08, when he scored the winning goal in the European Championships. Whether he continues to wreak havoc on opponents will depend on how fully he recovers from his April 2010 knee surgery.
Key Matchup: Spain vs. Switzerland
This game will be a test of health for the Spanish players who have taken a few months off due to injuries. Spain should easily get three points in this matchup, which will foreshadow their strength for the rest of the tournament.
Spain will smoothly make their way into the knockout round, where they’ll be more severely tested. The Spaniards have a chance to run furiously through the rest of the tournament all the way to the finals. This could be the team that wins it all.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown