Anyone that watched Spain’s qualifying campaign has to admit that they are one of the favourites to win the World Cup this summer. It was like watching the Spanish team that dominated international football from 2008 to 2012, where they won two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup. It was like watching that old Spanish team, except with the speed turned up to eleven. With their one touch football and that devastating speed, led by Isco in the middle, Spain turned Italy inside out, beating them 3-0, a result which effectively decided the group. Even Lionel Messi has been quoted as saying “I wouldn’t want to face Spain at the 2018 World Cup”.
Although the Spanish have been one of the most regular teams at the World Cup finals, they have only ever won the competition on one occasion, and have performed extremely poorly in the last two major international tournaments. It seems that coach Julen Lopetegui has been quietly making changes to the team, and has found the perfect formula. Not afraid of tweaking tactics for different games, the ability to play Sergio Busquets in a midfield pairing, or as a lone holding midfielder with two attacking midfielders ahead of him allows Lopetegui to tailor his team’s play style to specific opponents, a versatility that he will look to exploit in order to lead Spain to success.
- Isco (Real Madrid) – Isco has truly come into form in the last two seasons, and is now Spain’s most valuable playmaker. Led by Isco’s brilliance and creativity, Spain tore the Italian defence apart in their 3-0 victory, and it is to Isco that the coach will look to orchestrate the Spanish attack in Russia. A gifted dribbler of the ball with superb close-control, it is the speed at which he moves the ball that makes him such a threat to the opposition.
David Silva (Manchester City) – Never craving the limelight, Silva’s contributions in games often seem to go unnoticed. While previously overshadowed by the likes of Xavi and Iniesta, Silva has always consistently performed. The top scorer for Spain in the qualifiers, Silva is not shy of taking on a defensive responsibility in midfield, which allows the likes of Isco more creative licence to stay forward.
Julen Lopetegui – Having previously coached the under-21 team, Lopetegui was appointed to manage the senior team after the last World Cup. He has attempted to return and strengthen the tiki-taka style of play that made Spain so dominant in previous years. After a poor performance at the last Euros, it seems he has found the right formula, and must be confident going into this competition. A minor concern will be fitness, as many of his key players have had long seasons, however he has demonstrated that he is not afraid to call up young players, and that squad depth will be a major advantage to the team.