World Cup 2010 profile – Spain – Tournament favourites envy of footballing world

World Cup favourites Spain will be the envy of almost every football fan across the world as they arrive in South Africa boasting a squad of unbelievable quality and countless world-class stars. Spain – with a population of just over 46m – also possesses an immensely strong and popular domestic league. Many regard La Liga as the strongest domestic league in Europe, recently taking the mantle from the English Premier League following the arrival of some of the world’s most talented players – including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. Catalan giants Barcelona are largely considered the best team in Europe – and the world – while Real Madrid’s squad is packed full of a second generation of Galacticos. The national team consists of countless quality players, around 80% of which ply their trade in the country’s domestic league.

It is safe to say that Spain is a country where football is followed very closely and diligently indeed. Every town in Spain has a football team and it is the biggest sport in the country. Spanish clubs manage to produce a fair share of talented players and the national youth teams are particularly impressive, to the extent that 20 of the 23 players in the Euro 2008 winning squad had represented the country at youth level. The big clubs in Spain, such as Real Madrid and Barcelona boast youth systems that consistently produce gifted players. Take Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets, to name a few from Barca’s world-renowned academy – the envy of the entire footballing world.

Vicente Del Bosque’s gifted Spain squad will head to South Africa ranked as the world’s second best international team – behind Brazil – having convincingly been crowned champions at Euro 2008. Prior to success in that tournament, Spain were constantly labelled as under-achievers, having failed to make any kind of impression at big tournaments. However, this summer will present the tournament favourites a glorious opportunity to win the most coveted trophy in football. Spain expectedly eased through the qualifying stages, claiming an astounding 10 victories in as many games. They also managed to score a dazzling average of just under three goals per game, whilst conceding just five within the space of over 900 minutes of football. However, despite such an effortless task in qualifying for the World Cup , they were unexpectedly knocked out of last year’s Confederations Cup at the hands of the USA. Nevertheless, the Reds are back on track and ready to fire on all cylinders come the summer.

Del Bosque has been in charge ever since Luis Aragones departed after winning Euro 2008. Del Bosque, a man with a wealth of experience, has made a good job of managing the national side thus far and will undoubtedly want to achieve what his respectable predecessors have failed to manage – winning the World Cup. Del Bosque’s illustrious playing career saw him play for the famous Real Madrid, who he then went on to successfully manage on more than one occasion, most notably between 1999 and 2003, where he won two European Cups and two league titles. In terms of quality, Spain have some of the world’s most exciting players.

Despite the fact that almost any team of 11 men Del Bosque puts out will be packed full of outstanding players, there are a couple who hold the pass to glory in the upcoming tournament. Spain will be looking to star front-men Fernando Torres and David Villa to bang in the goals, just as they have been doing so successfully for club and country in recent years. Villa’s attributes include his perfect timing and intelligence in getting into good positions, coupled with his splendid finishing. Premier League fans will know all about Torres, with his finishing almost unrivalled, coupled with his electric pace and power – making him almost unplayable on his day. Similarly the midfield area possesses an equally gifted duo. Barcelona playmaker Xavi will be flanked by the exceptional Iniesta – both of whom have been instrumental in their club’s recent success – and will hold the key to unlocking the wealth of attacking excellence in the side. Xavi is a real playmaker, able to carve out backlines with incisive passes and good link up play. Iniesta can too pick a pass, and possesses more of an eye for goal than his elder teammate. The fact Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas fails to split the duo, just about says it all about the pair.

Realistically, Spain will go into the tournament expected to win it and this will unquestionably mount some pressure on the talented squad. The side’s style of football is incredibly attractive, full of neat little flicks and one-touch passing, with possession of the football of the utmost importance. Make no mistake, this is a team to be feared. For all their beautiful and precise football, now is the time for this great footballing nation to produce the goods on the world stage – they may well not get a better chance.

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