2008 - 2012 was a period of utter dominance from the Spaniards. Barcelona were considered one of the best sides ever during Pep Guardiola's reign which yielded an incredible 14 trophies, Real Madrid broke the world record to sign Cristiano Ronaldo for £80 million, and the national side won back to back European championships wedged in-between was the small matter of their first world cup triumph in 2010. Not a bad cup run to go on in the scheme of things.
A relativity straightforward qualifying group was skilfully negotiated with six wins and two draws both 1-1 against France. 14 goals with only three conceded is a good record, but it would have been expected for a team of Spain's calibre.
The fulcrum of the holders success still endures albeit they are a bit more aged since their first triumph, much is made of the obscene amount of talent in the middle of the park and little wonder when Thiago and Isco both young and incredibly talented young men are not even in the squad.
This tournament will also most likely be the last for one of the greatest midfielders of his generation. Xavi Hernandez or 'The puppet master' has been the manipulator in chief for the best part of a decade and with his Barcelona compatriot Andres Iniesta they have tormented team upon team with their flawless passing and seemingly never relinquishing hold over possession both will be still key members of the squad.
Despite some of the current members of the team reaching years where they are starting to slow down, luckily for Spain there's plenty of backup, Casillas has been part of the national set-up nearly as long as I've been alive, and to not have been usurped is quite the achievement when you also consider that he barely played in the league for the past two seasons but yet is still a shoe-in for the national side.
They are in good hands for the future too with David de Gea the undisputed number one at Manchester United proving himself to be one of the top young keepers in Europe is easily the heir to the kings throne. Xavi has tipped Koke to fill his boots not the national side and he is highly coveted most recently by Barcelona and previously Manchester United, and Carlos Puyol's place is fairly securely replaced with Pique and Ramos.
Unfortunately for Spain they will face an early test of their defence in the groups stages, along with a few others considered the 'Group of death' group B arguably takes it, containing the champions opponents in the final Holland, Chile who are not a team to be taken lightly and Australia who despite being the weakest team in the group could make life difficult if they have no restraints.
One must also consider that there is a possibility that they could face Brazil in the second round if either of them fail to top the group, so its not plain sailing by any means and i wont be alone in saying that they could face an early exit if they don't storm out the blocks early.
Having said that I think that they will top the group and with maximum points edging out Chile and Holland, the middle of the park is often where games are won and they are far too strong in that department to go out here, their possession brand of football is at times mesmerising and quite frustrating for the opposition
Another difference is that they have Diego Costa who was bang in form before his unfortunate injury who will add a different dimension to them going forward, his immense strength and stature make him a defenders worst enemy coupled with pace and quite the nasty streak he is a contender for the golden boot this year and little wonder Chelsea have reportedly shelled out £32 million to bring him to Stamford Bridge next season.
Overall i think Spain despite being a slightly more aged squad will still be a force to contend with, ability all over the pitch current holders and double European champions, it will take a brave man to bet against them being involved again and one stat to consider, during their 3 last tournament triumphs they have only lost once, that being their first game in the 2010 world cup losing 1-0 to Switzerland, they then went onto become the first team to lift the trophy after losing their first game. It's up-to you La Roja.
Probable finish: Just short this time - semi-finals
Star man: So many could get this but I'm going to plump for someone who people would perhaps not and that is Sergio Ramos, has just won the champions league and was a colossus at times for Madrid, fantastic athletic defender who is a threat from set pieces.
Spring a surprise: There's not a lot who could surprise us any more considering they are all world class players, but you could make a case for Xavi having a key role in yet another tournament .
Something to prove: Juan Mata, only really started playing this season when his transfer to Manchester United went through and being played out of position frequently by old manager David Moyes, he hasn't had an ideal season but still scored 6 goals in 15 games for his new club and with a new manager at the helm he will be eager to show his new boss what he can do. and what better way than their first group game on June 13 against Holland.
Who should have been on the plane: Suggesting this is like saying your going to trade in a Bentley and get an Aston Martin, minimal difference, you want both but cant have both, Isco, Thiago and Negredo could comfortably play for most top class sides and Alberto Moreno and Dani Carvajal has both has excellent seasons buts its due to the sheer depth of talent in the current squad that these will miss out.
Value Bets: Semi-final Exit 11/2 (Bet365), Win all group games 16/5 (sportingbet), 12 Tournament goals 11/1 (Skybet), To receive a red card 13/10 (BWIN)
*all odds correct as of 11/06
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