World Ranking: Second
Manager: Vicente del Bosque
Best World Cup Finish: 4th
Projected Starting 11: (GK) Iker Casillas; (D) Joan Capdevilla, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol; (M) Xavi, David Silva, Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta; (F) Fernando Torres, David Villa
If history is any indication, Spanish supporters should head into South Africa for the 2010 World Cup with an air of cautious optimism.
For a country with such a rich soccer tradition, it is quite appalling that Spain’s best finish in the World Cup was fourth place — and that was in 1950.
But 2010 brings new life and a chance to put all doubters to rest.
Despite its dismal World Cup track record, the 2008 European Champions are a heavy favourite for a reason: they have more stars than the Walk of Fame.
Fernando Torres and David Villa — the latter top scorer at the 2008 Euro’s — will lead a furious attack for Spain.
Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Xavi form one of the most lethal midfields in the tournament while Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos patrol the defense.
In goal, Spain will rely on the steady hands of Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, one of the best keepers in the business.
On top of its loaded lineup, La Furia Roja plays a stylish team oriented game that features precise ball movement and a flair for the dramatic.
Including their triumph in Austria/Switzerland in 2008, the Spaniards have played outstanding soccer on the road to Johannesburg.
Between November 2006 and June 2009, Spain put together an astounding undefeated streak of 35 games — including 15 wins — a feat only matched by Brazil.
And in the qualification for South Africa, Spain did alright: 10 wins and no losses while outscoring its opponents 28-5.
Player to watch
While every member of the Spanish side warrants special attention, no player commands the spotlight more than Fernando Torres.
After undergoing surgery on his right knee in April, El Nino is cleared to play and will likely be in the lineup when Spain plays Switzerland in the opener June 16.
Torres, the Liverpool striker, was the hero in 2008 after scoring the winner against Germany. He possesses world-class ball skills and couples that with lightning quick speed — a frightening combination for any defender in his way.
It will be interesting to see how his knee reacts to the rigors of the World Cup, but if healthy, Torres could be the game breaker Spain needs to put itself over the top.
2006 World Cup
After breezing through a weak group stage — with wins over Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia — Spain was thwarted by France in the round of 16.
Although France ended up playing Italy in the final, Spain was heavily favoured and the loss was considered a huge disappointment for the upstart Spaniards.
The core in 2006 looks relatively similar to the 23-man roster in 2010, but four years of international experience and success should be a huge advantage for The Red Fury.