There seems to be less hype surrounding Spanish football in 2014. Bayern’s 7-0 aggregate thrashing of Barcelona in the Champions League last season may have dented optimism somewhat. As might have Dortmund’s 4-3 semi-final victory over Real Madrid. With the apparent demise of Fernando Torres and David Villa, some are also arguing that the strike force looks considerably less threatening.
Odds comparison sites such as freebets.com are showing La Furia Rojaas as long as 8-1 with some bookmakers to retain their World title in 2014, but, with three players that make up the spine of FIFA’s World XI team, do the current holders and European Champions deserve to be written off? Or do they have a realistic chance of making it their fourth major tournament in a row?
There’s no doubt the team are going through a transitional period. The likes of Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol are coming to the end of their careers, whilst they will no doubt be missing the vital goals of Torres and Villa, who between them have netted 92 international goals.
Step forward Alvaro Negredo. The 28-year-old hasn’t stopped scoring so far this season with 19 goals in all competitions, and, with David Silva sat just behind him, it could prove a potent partnership. The 28-year-old has created 45 chances in just 911 minutes of Premier League football this season and the Manchester City duo could step up to be a vital ingredient as Spain search for glory this summer.
It is the defense however where Spain will most likely need to sure up. Barcelona centre-half, Puyol, was instrumental in the national team’s success in 2010, playing almost every minute of every game. However the shaggy-haired stopper has been plagued by injuries the last few years. The 35-year-old has only made seven starts for Barca this year, and could struggle if he’s chosen to partner Sergio Ramos.
Equally Gerard Pique has struggled to hit the high standards we’ve become accustomed to so far this season, but a stellar performance against top of the table rivals Atletico Madrid on January 11 will encourage the Spanish faithful.
Raul Albiol and Javi Martinez can also fill in at the back, and have been lighting up Serie A and the German Bundesliga respectively. The top-class talent able to come in should be able to cope with even the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Robin Van Persie, who they’ll come up against in the Group Stages. But questions marks are still surrounding the goalkeeping position, and, in particularly, Spanish captain, Iker Casillas.
Casillas has not played a league game since January 2013 and plenty of game time in the run up to the competition will surely be required for any international goalkeeper. It would be a hard task for Vincent Del Bosque to drop the man who has captained the side in their last three tournament victories, but with Victor Valdes, David De Gea and Pepe Reina all regulars at the La Liga leaders, Manchester United and Napoli, there may have to be a changing of the guard.
Del Bosque recently told Spanish Sports daily, AS, “The small advantage of Spain is that we are a team, beyond our good individuals.”
And that surely has to hold them in good stead. The national side doesn’t rely on a Messi, a Ronaldo, a Ribery, an Ibrahimovic, and that could be the telling difference between the likes of Argentina winning a title, and Spain being re-crowned the World Champions.