Qualified as group winners above Italy, Spain set to erase the bad memories of group stage exit at the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The 2010 World Champions had a torrid time in Brazil as they were knocked on matchday 2 with defeats to the Netherlands and Chile. It will be fair enough to say that Del Bosque was failing to recreate the success formula which was evident in their round of 16 exit at the European Championship 2 years later.
The team has moved on since and under the management of Julen Lopetegui, they look like a more solid unit than in four years ago with a perfect mix of experience and youth. They had an easy ride in the qualifying phase this term and finished at the top of the group unbeaten with 9 wins and a draw. They were also lethal in front of goal and netted 36 goals in the process with an incredible defensive record after conceding a nominal three goals.
If you look at Lopetegui’s squad for the tournament, the striking unit is inexperienced. But
Spain is not a team that depends largely on team work over individual skills. This is clearly evident from the fact that their joint top scorers during qualifying campaign Isco and Diego Costa contributed 5 goals each of the total 36 they netted. Again, one of them is a midfielder. This clearly means that the lack of genuine firepower upfront cannot be considered as a drawback. The likes of David Silva, Marco Asensio, Saul Niguez and Koke can provide genuine goal threats and cover up for this.
The likes of Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique were all part of the team that won the championship eight years ago and this will be their last major tournament in national colors and each will be keen to make a mark in Russia.
However, the player who stand out for me is Real Madrid playmaker Isco who is still fresh from netting a hat trick in the 6-1 humiliation of last year’s finalist Argentina in a friendly back in March.
History at the World Cup
Total 14 Previous Appearances
Best Finish – Champions in 2010
Russia 2018 will be Spain’s 11th consecutive appearance at the tournament.