World Cup 2014 Preview: Spain out to continue dominance

 

The Sports Network

Spain continued its good fortune in the 2010 World Cup by edging the Netherlands in the final, and made history at Euro 2012 by becoming the first nation to win three consecutive major tournaments.

Vicente del Bosque's men will attempt to prolong their recent run of success in major competitions, but the odds do not appear to be in their favor.

No European team has ever won a World Cup in South America, and no nation has claimed back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil achieved the feat with victories in 1958 and 1962.

Still, history bears no weight on future success, and the undeniable quality in Spain's squad makes the nation one of the tournament's clear-cut favorites.

Spain has been led by a strong Barcelona contingent in recent years and it's a formula that del Bosque looks set to repeat this summer as Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets will pull the strings.

Xabi Alonso's presence in the center of the pitch should allow Iniesta to occupy a more advanced position, allowing the 30-year-old to create without being bogged down by defensive responsibilities.

Speaking of defense, Spain's central defenders are hitting the prime of their careers as Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos bring plenty of experience to the fold. And anchoring the side in goal will be the nation's most-capped player, Iker Casillas.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether del Bosque will opt to implement the striker-less system that benefited the team so well in Euro 2012.

Spain's options up top are somewhat worrisome as Fernando Torres managed just five league goals this season, David Villa is one of the oldest players on the roster and Diego Costa has a hamstring injury that could hamper his involvement.

But del Bosque deployed a team of six midfielders for much of Euro 2012 with Cesc Fabregas playing much of the tournament as a false No. 9. The Spaniards found a great deal of success with that format as they crushed Italy in the final by a 4-0 score.

Regardless of how del Bosque aligns his team, Spain is capable of beating any side simply on the strength of its individual pieces. Not only are Spain's 23 players blessed with world-class talent, but with so many of them playing for Barcelona and Real Madrid, they have a tremendous amount of familiarity with one another, a circumstance that has bred a level of chemistry unrivaled in international football.

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