From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.33 :: NO.24 :: Jun. 17, 2010

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WORLD CUP BUMPER / TEAM ANALYSIS/SPAIN (GROUP H)

Underachiever turns favourite

The hallmark of Spain's play is grace, style and firepower. The attractive short-passing game that the team seems committed to would certainly prove more than a handful for its rivals.

AP

Spanish strike force... David Villa and Fernando Torres have a chat during a training session on the outskirts of Madrid.

Having shrugged off the tag of perennial underachiever with its memorable triumph in Euro 2008, Spain should now be under new pressure in South Africa as the favourite to win the World Cup. In fact, it is the only nation to have topped the FIFA rankings without having won the World Cup.

The confidence that the Euro 2008 victory gave Spain, which managed to end its title drought since 1964, was evident in good measure in the Group 5 qualifiers of the European Zone. The team won all its 10 matches and scored an incredible 28 goals while conceding only five.

The hallmark of Spain's play is grace, style and firepower. The attractive short-passing game that the team seems committed to would certainly prove more than a handful for its rivals.

The Spanish team boasts some of the best talents in the game today. Its goal will be manned by the seasoned Iker Casillas and in front of him will be a water-tight defence comprising Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Joan Capdevila and Sergio Ramos, who will also move into midfield to create openings.

The quality and balance of the side is also reflected in its midfield manned by Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta (or Cesc Fabregas, if he is fully fit). And the strong striking pair of David Villa and Fernando Torres, with support from David Silva, would aim to convert all the balls coming their way either through the middle or the flanks.

Overall, the Spanish team does not lack either in creativity or firepower. The team's only known weakness is its shakiness whenever faced with the through ball and in set-pieces.

The presence of such quality stars has only worked to the team's disadvantage as the coach, Vincente del Bosque, had been forced to leave out good players like Marcos Senna, Dani Guiza and Alvaro Negredo from his final squad of 23. Bosque has been the coach of Spain since Euro 2008, and much to the relief of the Spanish fans, he has handled the team of stars well without making any wholesale changes.

Prior to the Spanish assignment, Bosque had guided Real Madrid to some glorious victories, including two UEFA Champions League titles. Incidentally, barring the semifinal against USA in the Confederations Cup last year, the Spaniards have won every game they had played after Bosque took charge.

Spain is in Group H along with Switzerland, Chile and Honduras.

THE TEAM

GOALKEEPERS

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Jose Reina (Liverpool) and Victor Valdes (Barcleona).

DEFENDERS

Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Joan Capdevila (Villarreal), Carlos Marchena (Valencia), Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid).

MIDFIELDERS

Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergi Busquets (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), David Silva (Valencia), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Juan Manuel Mata (Valencia) and Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona).

FORWARDS

Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Fernando Torres (Liverpool) and David Villa (Valencia).

Coach: Vicente del Bosque.



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