With the World Cup fast approaching, I wanted to take a gander over the main competing nations, kicking off with the reigning champions, Spain.
Experience in international tournaments is a must for any team that vies to take the throne, and Spain has it in abundance. Even though manager Del Bosque changed it up a bit this time around, selecting more players from Atlético Madrid, an understandable decision given their success this season, the core players remain the same: Ramos and Piqué in the heart of defence, Barcelona delivering the midfielders, and old brave David Villa and black sheep Torres up front. Many a nation would kill for this group of players, and this golden generation has proven themselves worthy champions of the world.
Undoubtedly the greatest weak point to Spain’s squad is its age, with key players like Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa being well into their thirties, and other players nearing that mark. You could argue that was also the case in 2012’s Euro Cup, but in the career of a footballer, two more years to the tally can make all the difference, especially physically.
Another crack in the champion’s armour is their lack of in-form strikers. Fernando Torres played yet another bleak year at Chelsea, missing another open chance just a few days ago in a friendly against Bolivia. To add to that, David Villa – as mentioned above – has grown old this season, losing his trademark speed and agility. He still counts as an amazing striker in my opinion, but not world class anymore, and that is what Spain, or any team for that matter, need to win the trophy. Diego Costa has been selected despite his injury, and it still unclear whether he will recover soon enough to play in the group stages. And even if he does make it, he will be playing at half strength, fearing the injury to return, or worsen.
However much I have loved this Spanish side, with their revolutionary football and unity on the pitch, despite being mostly made up of the two biggest rivals in European football, I think their reign will end with this tournament. The succession is standing at the doorstep, waiting to be welcomed in, but another star shining down on their emblem won’t be coming any time soon. My prediction is La Furia Roja will make it to the semi-finals, ultimately ending third.