The World Cup is the chance for Spain to get back on top of the International stage and they among few others are already considered favourites to win it in Russia.

The two-time European Champions and former World Cup winners, Spain are already considered by most as one of the tournament’s clear favourites, for their remarkable qualifying campaign. Spain has been a dominant force since they erupted out at Euro 2008 and saw them utterly dominate the International stage like no other nation before them.

Of course, they have had to face a tough time in their last two major tournaments, after crashed out of the 2014 World Cup group stages and exiting Euro 16′ in the round-of-16 stage. But there are expectations from this team in Russia because Spain finally look like challengers again and ready to dominate like before.

A thorough qualifying stage which saw them score 36 goals and concede only three during their winning campaign makes this team one of the clear favourites to win the World Cup. Under Julen Lopetegui, the team has found the right balance between the two generations of players.

Group & Fixtures

Spain starts the World Cup against European Champions Portugal, who are in stunning form ahead of the World Cup. This tie, however, will not spoil the chances for either of the teams, but it could have an impact in the case of tight finish to the group. Spain will be looking to win this one and avoid a 2014 Brazil scenario, losing their opening game to the Netherlands.

Next up for Spain is Iran, followed by the tricky tie against Morocco, who look like they might just surprise a few at the World Cup. With a result against Portugal and a win over Iran would be enough for Spain to see through, considering they will get something out of the Morocco clash. Otherwise, Spain looks like it will head into the knockout phases.

The Squad

Spain announced its final-23 for the World Cup way before the deadline. There were a few names axed, but here are the full list of names –

Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Man Utd), Kepa (Athletic), Pepe Reina (Napoli)

Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos(Real Madrid), Nacho (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal).

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern), Koke (Atletico), Isco (Real Madrid), David Silva (Man City).

Forwards: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid), Diego Costa (Atletico), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Rodrigo (Valencia).

This Spain side led by Sergio Ramos has the right balance of youth and old. Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Iniesta and David Silva are the senior players gelling with a relatively young squad. While the selection of the team looks strong, some exclusions were noteworthy.

Spain have a great blend of old and young players. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Spain have a great blend of old and young players. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Cesc Fabregas, Bellerin, Marcos Alonso and Alvaro Morata were the following names to be axed from the squad, but other players could play their part. Morata did not have a high season, and neither did Chelsea, and it wasn’t a great surprise to see him axed, along with the others.

Cesar Azpilicueta has eased into the World Cup squad and along with Nacho Monreal, could play a crucial role for the Spaniards. The quality of the team speaks volumes; they had four top-scorers, and each had 5 goals to their names. This shows the abundance of goalscorers and talent within the group, with midfielders like Iniesta and Silva easing them through.

Diego Costa is confident to lead their line up front, while the trio of Real Madrid attackers Vazquez, Isco and Asensio could play crucial roles as well. Ramos with Pique will lead the back line, and David de Gea is set to start his first World Cup as no.1 for his country.

The Manager

Julen Lopetegui seems to have brought the best out of his Spain squad and the La Roja are unbeaten under his management. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Julen Lopetegui seems to have brought the best out of his Spain squad and the La Roja are unbeaten under his management. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Julen Lopetegui seems to know what went wrong with Spain in 2014 and the Euros after that. There was a particular imbalance in the squad from the last two tournaments, but since taking charge of Spain in 2016, Lopetegui has seemingly repaired those cracks, than merely covering them.

While he never offered any assurances to the players then, the axing of several high profile players tells the story. But what he has got to Russia is a whole squad from many angles. Spain under his management has remained unbeaten heading into the World Cup.

Initially, many were surprised by his appointment considering his lack of high profile experience as well as coaching a side that was World and double European champions. Lopetegui took on the challenge and made some critical decisions regarding this side. He seems to have rated the players based on their performances over the season and what they bring to the squad.

Potential Starting-XI (4-3-3)De Gea; Alba, Ramos, Pique, Azpilicueta; Iniesta, Busquets, Silva; Asensio, Isco, Costa

THT Verdict

Spain is confident to go through to the next round. Portugal might also be in the running for the top spot, but their first game will decide the direction of the group. Morocco could not be underestimated because of their quality, but on the whole, Spain and Portugal should see through this group, with Spain the favourites to top the group.

In that case, they could meet either of Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well might meet Uruguay in the case the South Americans fail to win their group. The next round could possibly have a Spain-Argentina clash or even against Denmark. Finally, based on current form and favourites of the tournament, if Spain is to reach the Final, then they could face Germany there, possibly.

In all, Spain is one of the clear favourites for the World Cup and a complete performance such as in 2010, could help them regain world dominance. Unless they create an atmosphere like in 2014, they are set for a long haul in this World cup in Russia.

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