Team Profile: Spain
Colours: Red shirts, blue shorts and red socks
Nickname: La Furia Roja (the Red Fury)
Previous World Cup appearances: (12) 1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Best World Cup performance: Fourth place, 1950
Coach: Vicente del Bosque.
Most capped player: Andoni Zubizarreta 126.
Top scorer: Raul 44.
Current FIFA Ranking: 1
Spain's best performance was in Brazil 1950, where the World Cup was won by Uruguay in the already famous Maracanazo. The Spanish team finished third. Until now, La Roja have always been meeting with tragedy. They always consider themselves favourites, but they have never been at the level they thought they were capable of. Good players but not enough competitive sense proved the story. Right now, after their European Championship (2008, Austria and Switzerland) success, their psychological capacity seems to have changed.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Spain was involved in Group 5 with Bosnia, Turkey, Belgium, Estonia and Armenia. Del Bosque's boys had a World Cup qualifying supreme: 10 matches, 10 games won, 28 goals scored and only five conceded. The Spanish team was good enough to win each match with offensive style and with a great performance to accompany each game. Without doubt, they are, at the moment ,the best national team of the world (certainly with regards to ranking and, of course, results.
Let us forget the statistics. Let's talk about the idea of how Spain want to play and how they almost always reach that level. We are at Barcelona's decade. Their style is offensive and based on the ball possession. Luis Aragones, former Spanish coach and champion in 2008, used Barça's players to find a new Spain: Xavi, Iniesta, or similarly Fabregas, composed Blaugrana's sense of playing and they did the same at La Roja. Touch after touch of the ball until they find the space to penetrate the rival's defence. David Villa, David Silva and Fernando Torres do the rest. They are a machine.
Fabio Capello has said it's easier to beat Spain than Brazil and he is right. Why? Because the Spanish team has two problems they will find at South Africa: Strategic balls floated in and opponent's trying to play 'dirty.' The game against Argentina, for example, Spain put themselves in trouble with faults at free-kicks and corners. Del Bosque's side could have closed the match in the first half but they didn't and they suffered at the end. Teams such as Brazil, Italy, England or Argentina could throw them out of the tournament if they do not work on set plays.
Vicente Del Bosque replaced Luis Aragones right after Spain's biggest achievement over the last decades (winning Euro 2008), and he proved to be a successful choice, especially in two areas. He showed experience to deal with a squad full of stars, controlling the notable euphoria, and he also confirmed himself as a continuity echelon to the previous glory cycle, keeping the Spanish style, philosophy and mentality.
Gerard Pique (Barcelona): His appearance in Pep Guardiola's magic team, gives him the chance to play at national level: Tall, fast and with a very good football brain, Pique is one of the best defenders in the world.
Xavi Hernández (Barcelona): Barcelona's 'mind' is the most important weapon in Del Bosque's armory. One or two touches maximum on the ball, Xavi has the most important role of La Roja. If he plays, all the team works; if not, they have Xabi Alonso, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva to fall back on. It's not too bad, is it?!
Fernando Torres (Liverpool): He's a killer in front goal but he's not only that. Torres is one of the best counter-attacking strikers in the world, so he gives Spain so many more options. David Villa is the real striker in quantity, but without Torres, his job is not so decisive. Why? Because 'El Nino' will fight against the opposition to give Villa enough space to exploit his qualities.
BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT
Without doubt, the European Championship was the biggest success in Spanish football history. Not just the final outcome but the style of victory, made Spain a proud nation. Great players, as a unit, did the impossible for the Spanish mentality: to feel like you're the best team and to finally win an important competition.
OFF THE PITCH
Famous for: Manolo El del Bombo: He is the only fan who always goes everywhere Spain plays. Is a typical picture of the Spanish national team. He will be at South Africa, of course.
Most likely to: See Spanish fans split by two colours. If you don't see a red shirt, scarf, cap or even a face cut by a yellow big strip, well, that shouldn't be a La Roja supporter.
WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE
Spain will arrive again as a favourite but with real options to win the World Cup. Great players, a unified group and hunger for glory, make them the very first candidate to be the new champion of the world.