del Bosque names provisional squad
Vincente del Bosque names his provisional squad for Spain’s 2014 title defence campaign, with a blend of the ‘old guard’ making up La Roja’s core and some fresh names strewn in between, including Cesar Azpilicueta and David Silva to name a few. As well, del Bosque scooped up Brazilian-born Diego Costa after the Atletico Madrid striker decided to represent Spain rather than the hosts, an enviable scoop that adds a lot of character and intensity to Spain’s frontline.
La Roja are set to appear in their 14th World Cup, tenth consecutive since 1978; but for the first time they enter the competition as the defending champions. They are listed at +650 to win a second straight title, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Brazil won back-to-back titles in 1958 and 1962. In fact, only two nations have won back-to-back titles, the other being Italy (1934 and 1938), which just demonstrates just how difficult it is to win this competition.
Spain won their nation’s first crown in South Africa when they beat Holland 1-0 in the final. Unlike La Liga’s offensive trends, where each and every week features a veritable goal-feast, Spain’s run through 2010 World Cup was marked by stoic defending. All matches in the knockout stages featured a 1-0 score, with their opponents some of the world’s top football nations in the world. A list that includes Portugal (R16), Paraguay (Quarters), Germany (Semis) and Holland (final), and makes their run all the more impressive, if not seemingly counterintuitive. On the merit of that run, Captain Iker Casillas won the adidas Golden Glove. An award he’s sure to be one of the top favourites to win again in this year’s installment of World Cup betting.
Spain’s qualifying campaign (6-2-0) extended their undefeated record in World Cup qualification to 53 matches, a record setting run of form. What’s more, they continued the defensive lean that saw them win their first title in South Africa, conceding just three goals across eight games played (Spain was in the five-team qualifying group; hence, they played two fewer games than the rest of the field).
While Spain rank amongst the Top 5 favourites in the competition, they aren’t where you’d intuitively expect them to be on that list. They are a distant, fourth favourite to win the title after Brazil, Argentina and Germany. This market estimation is partly explained by the difficulty of winning back-to-back titles, of course. It’s also an indication of their diminished stock value in sportsbooks.
While Spain went through qualifying undefeated, they were beaten soundly by Brazil in the final of Confederations Cup. Largely down to the 3-0 defeat, La Roja were stripped of the imperviousness gained after the stratospheric heights they reached with winning Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and then Euro 2012, a run aptly coined as the ‘Golden age of Spanish football’. So it’s not surprising that some are prompted to question their viability on their World Cup picks.
Is Spain a Reasonable Pick to Win?
That said to write them off would be foolish. Losing to Brazil could become a catalyst for a focused campaign; after all they’re not travelling to Brazil to just take in the sights. There is also an argument about the scheduling and locations of Spain’s matches over the course of Confederations Cup last summer, particularly the last two rounds when they played their semi-final a day after Brazil and in cities at considerably greater distance (and altitude) away from Rio where the final took place. Without getting into the nuances of this argument, suffice it to say simply that the results of Confederations Cup should be taken with reservation rather than empirical confirmation of Spain’s World Cup chances.
Notionally or literally (whichever way you slice it), Spain is the team to beat. The depth and quality of their bench is enviable to say the least. Beginning with Iker Casillas captaining and manning the posts, the national keeper is preparing to lift Real Madrid to Champions League glory this week, a feat that would send him into Brazil brimming with confidence. Casillas leads a defence that includes veterans and returnees: Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Javi Martinez and Gerard Pique. Also making the squad is Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Juanfran (Atletico Madrid) and newbies Cesar Azpilcueta (Chelsea) and Alberto Moreno (Sevilla), amongst several others.
Speaking of Champions League, Atletico pair Diego Costa and David Villa are amongst the top favourites scorers available at +1600 and +3300, respectively, for your World Cup top scorers picks. The pair is part of an exciting frontline that includes Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas (both Manchester City), Fernando Llorente (Juventus), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona) and Fernando Torres (Chelsea), all of which are priced anywhere from +3300 to +6600 (thereabouts) to top the scorers charts.
At La Roja’s core is Andres Iniesta, the winning goal scorer and man-of-the-match in the 2010 World Cup. Iniesta has received the expected call for national duty, and his experience and aptitude on the big occasion will be crucial towards Spain’s run. As well, the Barcelona star will be a pivotal leader in the middle, a great asset for shipping Spain’s goals into opponents’ nets alongside teammates Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas. As well, alongside midfielders Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Tiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Santi Cazorla (Arsenal), and David Silva (Manchester City).
To look at Spain’s bench is to be treated to a veritable who’s who: football’s glitterati at club and national level, all sat together and kitted out in Spanish colours. If that isn’t a sobering sight for the rest of the field what is? Indeed, this is a well-assembled team that enhances its nation’s chances in World Cup betting markets and that definitely warrants consideration on your World Cup picks.